Can Businesses Turn LGBT People Away Because of Who They Are? That’s Up to the Supreme Court Now.

The United States Supreme Court just agreed to decide a case about whether a business can refuse to sell commercial goods to a gay couple because of the business owner’s religious beliefs.  A win for the business could gut the nation’s civil rights laws, licensing discrimination not just against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, but against anyone protected by our non-discrimination rules. 

In July 2012, Debbie Munn accompanied her son, Charlie Craig, and his fiancé, Dave Mullins, to the Masterpiece Cakeshop just outside of Denver  to pick out a cake for their wedding reception.  When the bakery’s owner heard that the cake was for two men, he said he wouldn’t sell them a cake because of his religious beliefs. 

Debbie was stunned and humiliated for Charlie and Dave.  As she has  said, “It was never about the cake.”  She couldn’t believe that a business would be allowed to turn people away because of who they are or whom they love.  They might as well have posted a sign in the shop saying “No cakes for gays.”

The Colorado courts agreed with Debbie and ruled that the bakery’s refusal was unlawful and rejected the bakery’s request for a religious exemption from the state’s longstanding non-discrimination law. 

By granting review in Charlie and Dave’s case, the Supreme Court has placed  a spotlight on supposed tensions between equality and religious liberty.  But the country has already found the right balance between these two important constitutional interests. 

Under the Constitution, we each have the right to our own religious beliefs.  We are empowered to act on those beliefs --  but not when our actions would harm others.  That’s because religious freedom doesn’t give anyone the right to discriminate against or harm other people.

When businesses open their doors to the public, they must open them to everyone on the same terms, regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, or – under many state  laws – sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Even when  a business owner’s religious beliefs may motivate her to discriminate, that doesn’t justify an exemption from our civil rights laws.  Providing commercial services, like selling cakes, doesn’t mean a business owner is endorsing anyone’s marriage.  It simply means they are following the rules that apply to us all.

Demands for religious exemptions from civil rights laws are not new.  In the past, businesses have repeatedly sought to pay women less than men because of a religious belief that men are “heads of household” and women should not work outside the home.  Other businesses have refused service to people living with HIV because of a belief that they are sinful.  Still others turned people away from restaurants because of their belief that they should not  interact with people of a different race.  The courts rightly rejected all of these claims for religious exemptions, despite the fact that they were based on deeply held beliefs. 

There’s no reason that religious exemptions should be any more acceptable when it comes to turning people away because of religious beliefs about  sexual orientation or gender identity.  Courts across the country have agreed, including a decision from the Washington State Supreme Court  in February.  

The religious exemptions issue has gained prominence recently as civil rights protections for gay and transgender people have become more widespread.  States have proposed laws that would license discrimination by businesses, government workers, adoption agencies, and counselors.  Congress has considered similar measures. And President Trump has signed an executive order that signaled his intent to use religious exemptions to advance discrimination. But polling shows that both the American public and business owners themselves reject these overbroad exemptions and recognize them as discrimination. 

Charlie’s mom was right:  It’s not about the cake. Or the flowers. It’s about not being turned away from a business because of who you are.  Religious freedom must be protected in America, but what’s going on here is pure  discrimination. 

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Anonymous

My sincerely held religious beliefs compel me to expose and disseminate information about any business employing discriminatory practices so everyone may avoid doing business with them. Why open your doors to the public then? Sad!

Anonymous

I would like to disagree with you on this issue.
Baking a cake doesn't hold the same significance as changing someone's beliefs. In an official report of the court findings, the Court allowed Phillips to add a note on all of these cakes that he doesn't condone this type of behavior, allowing him to keep his beliefs.
Phillips had violated the CADA as he refused the couple service because Craig and Mullins were planning to have a same-sex marriage, so the basis of Phillip's rejection is that the marriage was same-sex. This is discrimination against sexual orientation and therefore, a violation of the CADA.
The Court had every right to issue this verdict.

Barbi

Is it just homosexuality that is against their religion? Is fornication against their religion? If so, so they ask if a couple is having sex before they get married, if they are do they refuse to bake a cake for them? You cannot just pick and choose which "firmly" held convictions you have can you? Do adulterers get the same treatment? Sorry but if you are serving the public your religious beliefs don't really have anything to so with it--those convictions apply to you and you alone. You don't apply them to other people.

Jeff M

In another article, the ACLU rightfully States that the provisions for freedom of speech contained in the Bill of Rights is a " bedrock" of civil liberties. The same amendment in the Bill of Rights goes on to prohibit the government from establishing a religion or Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of religious beliefs. By endorsing LGBT rights overdose of religious beliefs it appears that the ACLU is indeed selective and partisan in what it considers"civil liberties". This appears to be consistent with my observations of the ACLU over the the years. The ACLU defended the Nazis right to march in Skokie Illinois but to my knowledge has failed to defend the rights of conservatives to speak on liberal campuses. Your organization claims to be non-partisan. However it must be coincidental that fundamental civil liberties are espoused by the organization only when consistent with a liberal political agenda.

Kathy Barbis

freedom of speech
noun
the right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental interference, subject to the laws against libel, incitement to violence or rebellion, etc.

A liberal college deciding not to let a person speak on their campus is not governmental interference.

Evil cannot prevail

Everyone need to get fairness and justice. But who is 'Absolute Reference' for fairness and justice? Is it James Esseks, Director, LGBT & HIV Project? Or Jewish ALCU who hate God of Israel? Or any human court?

None of them, but Creator of universe, Jehovah God! Can anyone stand against Him? His Torah stand against homo sex. And that is it. Matter is already settled in His Court!

I would urge all CHRISTIAN, JEWISH and MUSLIM supporters of ACLU to think twice before taking any step further. NEVER EVER PROMOTE EVIL! SAY NO IT ONCE AND FOR ALL! STAND FOR JEHOVAH GOD, STAND FOR TEN COMMANDMENTS! REMEMBER TORAH'S CURSE, ALL THOSE HATE JEHOVAH GOD STAND CONDEMNED!

Anonymous2

The very definition of discrimination.

Lance Wells

So, would it concern you to know that I was refused advertising space in an Idaho newspaper for my book ("The Truth Comes Out") because it expresses a "religious" viewpoint on the "LGBT community?" It says "Christian" right on the back cover description, yet the representative turned me (and my nearly $400) away, because they claimed my book was contrary to their view.
Somehow, I doubt there will be a fuss about this almost-certain violation of the Civil Rights Act. Unless the "gays"are the ones on the receiving end, discrimination is a non-issue.

Anonymous

Well, what did your book say about the "LGBTQ community" (also known as people just like you). If your book was offensive and ignorant than I applaud the newspaper.

Lance Wells

A) They are not "just like me," as I am not a sodomite sex offender.
B) If you're interested to know what it's about, buy a copy.
C) I'm sure you would applaud the newspaper, while simultaneously lamenting the "discrimination" experienced by two men who deserve the death penalty.

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