Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court's champion of gay rights, seemed troubled Tuesday by Colorado officials' treatment of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips after he turned down a gay couple's request for a custom cake to celebrate their wedding in 2012.

"Tolerance is essential in a free society. Tolerance is most meaningful when it's mutual," Kennedy said during oral arguments. "It seems to me the state in its position has been neither tolerant nor respectful of Mr. Phillips' religious beliefs."

However, Kennedy also expressed concern for the plight of gay couples who might be refused services.

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