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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Sam Wade

Whilst I am both gay and non-religious, I nevertheless find myself disagreeing with the ACLU's stance on this particular case.

Had Mr Phillips declined to produce the cake on the sole and specific grounds of the sexual orientation of the customer(s), he would have unquestionably acted in a discriminatory and unlawful way. But from I understand, that is not what appears to have taken place. Rather than declining to serve LGBT customers generally, it seems that Mr Phillips is instead refusing to use his creative talents to manufacture a particular product which would serve to undermine his personal beliefs. I cannot see how this can be deemed inherently tantamount to refusing service to individual customers who are LGBT.

I would therefore ask the ACLU to drop its opposition to Mr Phillips. In continuing to deny his right to decline particular service requests, the ACLU is only serving to undermine the interests of liberty and the free-market.

"The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those that deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities." - Ayn Rand

Anonymous

The ACLU has supported the imposition of draconian financial penalties on a small business that refused to decorate a cake with words that support a gay marriage. These penalties were imposed by an unelected bureaucracy totally without due process at a level designed to drive the owners out of business. If the ACLU prevails, will it also support similar penalties against a bakery that refuses to decorate a cake with the biblical quotation, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind”? If not, who will decide what so-called “hate speech” is unacceptable? Will the ACLU also sue Muslim-owned businesses that refuse to support gay marriage or only bully Christians who believe in turning the other cheek?

Anonymous

The ACLU has supported the imposition of draconian financial penalties on a small business that refused to decorate a cake with words that support a gay marriage. These penalties were imposed by an unelected bureaucracy totally without due process at a level designed to drive the owners out of business. If the ACLU prevails, will it also support similar penalties against a bakery that refuses to decorate a cake with the biblical quotation, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind”? If not, who will decide what so-called “hate speech” is unacceptable? Will the ACLU also sue Muslim-owned businesses that refuse to support gay marriage or only bully Christians who believe in turning the other cheek?

Anonymous

The ACLU has supported the imposition of draconian financial penalties on a small business that refused to decorate a cake with words that support a gay marriage. These penalties were imposed by an unelected bureaucracy totally without due process at a level designed to drive the owners out of business. If the ACLU prevails, will it also support similar penalties against a bakery that refuses to decorate a cake with the biblical quotation, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind”? If not, who will decide what so-called “hate speech” is unacceptable? Will the ACLU also sue Muslim-owned businesses that refuse to support gay marriage or only bully Christians who believe in turning the other cheek?

Eli Samuel Goldman

Of course the Trump administration sidesteps and subverts the Constitutional rights of individuals. He has no honor. He cheated and scammed even at Wharton. His brother Freddy pulled sone strings to get him in, and talked them into accepting credits from his prior school that didn't transfer. Donald Trump hired students to help him cheat his way through University of Pennsylvania (did his classwork for him) after being admitted on a probationary basis. He was asked to do remedial education because he was far behind his classmates, and never did. Most of his classmates have no recollection of him showing up for a single class. A professor came out years ago saying he was approached by men threatening him to "be good to Donald," meaning to keep his mouth shut and pass him even though he failed to attend classes. The few that thought they might remember Donald have been believed to be confusing Donald Trump for another student and assumed because of his great wealth now that he must have known things then. This is projecting his false image now on a man it was extremely unlikely they ever met then.they even attributed things like shyness to Donald Trump confusing him for another student, when first hand accounts clearly placed him at the time elsewhere, and almost never even in the vicinity of University of Pennsylvania. Long ago there was even a search and no evidence was found that Donald graduate Wharton. However with his current money and power I've no doubt he had records since doctored (counterfeited) and placed where they can be *leaked* When I discovered this it infuriated me that the poor like myself can study day and night for decades and get short changed, while the Trump's of this world can bully, buy and cheat their way into opportunities and credibility they did not earn and don't deserve. Penn cannot be blamed for this, and is one of our nation's best schools. The sad fact is an elite few have the extreme wealth, power,and connections to ruin things for everyone else. I bet most of Trump's classmates who actually attended classes worked their tail-off, and studied day and night. Then people like Donald Trump go and steal their opportunities away from them using shady and unscrupulous tactics. I hate it....I studied my ass off for everything I had and much that I earned but never got. Then people like Trump get credit for things they never earned. Then this asshole has the nerve to insult people like Bill Clinton who grew up dirt poor and went on to graduate two Ivy league schools at the top of his class and are invited to be a Rhodes Scholar. Or insult Hillary from a working class background who fought to have the same education and rights as men back in an era when men still dominated. Or insult George W. Bush, when wasn't a very good student and had to work three times as hard as the more gifted students, and needed tutors just to keep up. But still managed to graduate from too schools ... Just barely, and with concessions made.But at least he read the books, attended the classes and did the work as beat he could. Unlike Trump he didn't buy, lie and employ thugs to get his credentials.

Eli Samuel Goldman

Pardonwhat seems like poor literacy. My cell phone auto-types the wrong word frequently and I'm on wifi, often typing quickly (for me) so I can post before my battery dies. Consequently the message is more important to me than editing.

Eli Samuel Goldman

Trump transfered into UofP as I stated as an undergrad. He paid students to do his papers. After his first semester or so as an undergrad he stopped even coming to campus, according to reports. He never graduated Wharton, and Penn was afraid to comment due to his power money and underworld connections, even more so when it began to seem like this lying monster would soon be President. The poor financially strapped students who did his schoolwork already came out about it years ago, and the information got *magically* buried, and (I'm guessing) the former students, silenced. But here is what one professor had to say of Trump's fictional attendance and achievements at Wharton and UofP:

A Penn professor of education, John L. Puckett, recently co-wrote a history of the university and found no trace of Donald Trump in his research. “He was not in any conservative faction, not in any fraternity, not in anything,” Puckett told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “I went through decades of Daily Pennsylvanians. I’ve got about 3,000 pages of notes, and you won’t find his name anywhere.

Anonymous

Freedom of religion doesn't give you the right to be an awful snowflake.

Eli Samuel Goldman

One of the major problems with fighting Trump's Discrimination Team is those who opposed him in big business are over time showing their loyalty can be bought, then they change their story. Such is the case for Indra Nooyi, C.E.O. of Pepsi Co. Trump had a history with Pepsi long ago, and as we know did a Pepsi commercial. But since he is a sellout himself that will do anything for money and has no loyalty for anything but money, he also supported their competition Coca Cola. Originally Pepsi Co and Nooyi claimed to be a staunch Hillary and Democracy supporter. But apparently she was just kissing-up to the candidate she felt most likely to win and doesn't care how racist Trump is because she's wealthy, and hence most of his policies won't affect her because she'd be considered one of the "elite." She notably in the press commented about "how dare" Trump talk about women that way. Then when he rigged the election and won, she suddenly became fine with racism and sexism since he added her to his team as an economic advisor in his "strategic policy forum." So racism and sexiem is OK as long as she personally gets a fancy title and preferential treatment. She even admitted all her employees were crying when Trump won and those who are part of the LGBT community as well as those female, people of color, or believers in Democracy did not feel safe with Trump as President. After she sold them and her own honor/values to Trump for a fancy title and a position in his economic team, then she bullshitted her employees claiming nothing has changed. But we can see by his actions, policies, and evidence all over the country and world that it's total bullshit. She means she's still wealthy and nothing has changed for her, plus she gets cool new governmental perks.

Eli Samuel Goldman

Interestingly Oklahoma's own Quick Trip trucks have the same "food as it should be" ad with a picture of a young child of color eating the same thing on it...the exact picture as the Panera Bread trucks. Which, coincidentally just opened up next to Krispy Kreme, and they are all now owned as well as Coty, Jimmy Choo, Krispy Kreme, Keurig Green Mountain and tons of brands having to do with coffee by JAB Holding, owned secretive Reimann family of German who happen to be closet financial partners with Trump. SUPRISE, SUPRISE! Hmmm, and be transferred so much of his own money to Germany while spewing some pro-american industry and investment bullshit. How also interesting. Can you say, Heir Fuhrer Nazi Trump is a "lying sack of shit"...

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