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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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.

Anonymity

We are ALL equal reglion shouldn't play a part in it u are open TO the public.

Linda

well we know how Gorsuch will vote, so much for fair and unbiased governing, they should all have to check their religious beliefs at the door.

Maria Vittes

Having read about this case, I get the impression that the ACLU has somehow ended up with wrong facts regarding the case. The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was granted cert with the following question before the court: "Whether applying Colorado's public accommodations law to compel Phillips to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the Free Speech or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment". Indeed, according to what I have read about the case, the couple asked the bakery owner to create a cake that expresses something that the owner disagreed with (what specifically was asked for is not discussed in any article I've read, unfortunately), and in response the owner said he wouldn't agree to make that cake but they could order other cakes (I guess ones that wouldn't express the same message or were neutral). I have the feeling that the ACLU has ended up on the wrong side on this case. I would think that no creator of expressive works should be required to create expressive works expressing something they disagree with even if the person requesting it is a member of a protected class or the expressed sentiment is related to a protected class. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, itself, has found the same thing, but, for some reason treats this as a special case. Ultimately, as far as this case goes, the couple should certainly be allowed to order a generic wedding cake, but once their requested product expresses certain sentiments, the creator should have a right to refuse the request. I think the ACLU has ended up on the wrong side here.

Anonymous

No, ACLU has not ended up on the wrong side here! They are eagerly waiting for any issue which will hurt religious Christians! They are at war with Christians. ACLU if it is possible for them, will try to do everything possible to harm and destroy Christians. Leftist Jewish war against their host Nation!

Anonymous

http://www.aclufightsforchristians.com/

Indy_Skies

No special details or decorations were requested for the cake. The customers simply requested a "wedding cake," something the bakery does provide to other customers. The two men entered the shop, accompanied by one of the men's mothers, and asked to order a wedding cake.

"At the shop, the couple was met by Phillips. When they told Phillips that they were interested in purchasing a wedding cake for their wedding, he replied that it was his standard business practice not to provide cakes for same-sex weddings. He explained that he would sell the couple other baked goods, including 'birthday cakes, shower cakes, … cookies and
brownies.' But, he said, 'I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.' Id. at 4a–5a, 64a–65a.

"Craig, Mullins, and Craig’s mother immediately left. They never discussed details about the cake that Craig
and Mullins were seeking, such as the cake’s design or whether it would include any special features or messages."

http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/16-111-BIO-CCRC.pdf

Bobby Goodson

The arguments in this case do not, at the lowest level have to do with the status of the respondents as a same-sex married couple. This case is entirely about a cake shop that refused equal service to a couple that does not share their religious beliefs. Whatever the belief structure of Craig and Mullins, they were singled out and refused service based on that sole difference.

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