[caption id="attachment_129143" align="aligncenter" width="5126"] A rainbow colored flag, seen through an American flag, flies in front of the Supreme Court (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) 


The Supreme Court’s recent ruling settled the issue of gay marriage, but broader LGBT rights issues remain unclear and contradictory.

The legal framework for LGBT rights will merge from a complicated nexus of non-discrimination, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech.

No federal law prevents workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Some states have laws prohibiting discrimination in housing and employment, as well as some cities where states have no law, but the majority of states lack any protection.

Case law is thin as well. Some high-profile instances of bakers refusing to make wedding cakes, or photographers refusing to work LGBT weddings, ignite the debate, but the law hasn’t codified on a majority-state or federal level yet.

Workplace rights, spousal benefits, and adoption are all gray areas. Where arguments can be made along the lines of the First Amendment, freedom of conscience will probably win out.

However, an inevitable tension exists between a tolerance for a diversity of opinion and anti-discrimination. Refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple isn’t the same as a minister refusing to marry them; a baker’s religious beliefs do not dictate how to bake a cake, whereas a minister’s religious beliefs are central to a wedding ceremony.

As The Atlantic noted, the government cannot discriminate when recognizing marriage, but it remains within the right of the clergy based on the First Amendment.

An Oregon baker was fined by the state for refusing a lesbian couple, and a New Mexican photographer, fined by the state, had to pay after the Supreme Court declined to review the case.

Such cases will no doubt balloon during the next few years. If the trend continues, freedom of conscience will take precedent when religious identity is central to the case, but anti-discrimination laws will triumph when sexual orientation or religious beliefs are secondary to the dispute. What criteria courts will use to decide those issues, however, is yet to be seen.

As Emma Green writes in The Atlantic, "In certain cases, extending new rights to LBGT workers will necessarily lead to religious-freedom objections, and vice versa ... For now, the bigger issue is the ambiguity. In the absence of explicit federal protections—and in many places, state protections—someone who believed he or she was being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation would be totally dependent on the interpretation of the courts."