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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Indy_Skies

The cake did not differ from other cakes which the bakery did make and sell. So the owners were not being asked to produce a specific type of cake that dishonored their religious convictions. The exact same cake was sold to others. So it was a neutral product available to the public. All of the public.

Anonymous

As quoted earlier, the question is whether the courts can compel the baker to create an expression that is in conflict with his religious beliefs. I don't think that the courts should be able to compel this baker to create an expression of anything he doesn't want to create. I, as a Christian, would not expect a Muslim artist to paint a picture of Christ for me, and I wouldn't be offended if he or she said, "Would you like a painting of a Mosque instead?"

If the gay couple picked an already made cake off the shelf and asked to buy it, the baker should sell it to them, but just like I should not be able to force an artist to paint what I want them to, this baker should not be forced to create a cake that is offensive to him.

Anonymous

The cake the costumers requested was no different from your average wedding cake. It didn’t have a pride flag on it, or a message written “gay sex is in!.” It was just a wedding cake, and they were denied their order because the owner knew the cake was being used for a gay wedding.

Anonymous

They didn't get an opportunity to specify "an expression." The baker refused on the basis of them being a same-sex couple.

Peter Hey

I pose a serious question. I fully support LGBTQ inclusion. But my lingering reservation is: "if the state has the power to force a baker to bake a wedding cake against their will would that not give the state to force a tailor to mend the robe of a member of the KKK?

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.

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