The Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Case Is One Piece of a Much Larger Attack on LGBTQ Lives

This term the Supreme Court will hear a case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Charlie Craig & David Mullins, involving a Colorado bakery that refused to serve a same-sex couple who wanted to purchase a cake for their wedding reception.

Colorado law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodations — places like bakeries, movie theatres, restaurants, hospitals, and other establishments open to the public — based on sexual orientation, among other protected classes. The Colorado courts, interpreting this straightforward law, held that the bakery’s refusal to serve the couple constituted discrimination based on sexual orientation and that there is no constitutional right to discriminate that supersedes this protection.

Now before the United States Supreme Court and supported by anti-LGBTQ groups, and the United States Department of Justice, the bakery argues that it has a First Amendment right to discriminate based on the owner’s religious beliefs. The owner also claims that because his business — making cakes — involves some creativity, he should be allowed to determine who can receive his services.

His argument can be deceptively appealing. Cakes can often have artistic or creative designs. So can sandwiches, legal briefs, bicycles, cars, flowers, medical care. Indeed, the work that we do often has great personal meaning to us and reflects our skill and passion.

But it is wrong to think that (1) any business that involves a creative component should be exempt from nondiscrimination laws, or (2) that a business is somehow endorsing each and every customer it serves.

As civil rights attorney Mary Bonauto wrote in a recent piece for SCOTUSBlog:

Earning a living from the sweat of one’s brow coexists with human creativity, with the passion for cutting hair or cooking food, with designing and sewing clothing – with making something both functional and beautiful. Uplifting the dignity and creativity in all work, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of the “street sweeper” who could “sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.”

To argue, as do Masterpiece Cakeshop and the Department of Justice in this case, that the exemption that would be created by a ruling for the business is narrow, is to ignore that reality. If we start to exempt from nondiscrimination laws businesses that reflect creativity and passion, such a move would undermine all nondiscrimination protections.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the organization defending the business at the Supreme Court, is taking great pains to frame this case as one about art and expression. It is using this tactic to gain support and obscure the fact that this case is part of a broader strategy to banish LGBTQ people from public life.

This is not about cake. This is about demolishing the legal protections that exist against discrimination in places of public accommodation.

Groups like ADF have already proposed and passed laws seeking to exempt from nondiscrimination protections any action that infringes upon an individual or businesses deeply held religious or moral belief that: “(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

I shudder at this final point since it means a moral or religious belief that trans people do not exist. And that is precisely what ADF and others have argued time and time again in litigation.

In the past two years, they and others have advanced the arguments that it is “outlandish” for the federal government to protect transgender students from discrimination, that having a gender that does not accord with the gender assigned to a person at birth is a “delusion,” and that providing health insurance coverage for gender transition would amount to “material cooperation with evil.”

If the Supreme Court sides with the bakery, the systematic rejection of LGBTQ people from public life will gain legitimacy and anti-LGBTQ movements will grow stronger.

It is possible to value creative labor and religious liberty without gutting generally applicable legal protections against discrimination and opening the door to a world in which trans people are rejected from public life because people don’t believe we do or should exist.

If a baker can reject LGBTQ people because of who we are, then what about the mechanic, the florist, the doctor, the teacher? This is not about cake. This is not about art. This is about survival.

Add a comment (90)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

LGBT are the latest "victims" that give radical secularists a "moral" bases to attack and dismantle fundamental rights associated with freedom of religion, association, thought, and speech. Previous victims were abortion seeking women, students in school, religious minorities, those who want to have free contraceptives, and ethnic minorities. The idea of "justice for all" says that in order to give justice to minority people (victims), we have to curtail the freedoms of others. In this end, they want political power and the ability to force their ideal and values on to the rest of society. It's not really about LGBT or feminism. Otherwise, they would not be finding common cause with Muslims who oppose both.

Anonymous

Amen. My question is this. Should we reverse Loving v ? Because many believe religiously that interracial marriage is an abomination?
How about those who believe on a religious basis that segregation IE Jim Crow is proper? Where do we draw the line?
Can a Muslim shop owner demand females wear hijab? Can we now decriminalize peyote and pscilocybin because some religions use it in their rites? Pot legal?
Where is the line drawn?

Michael

One of the interesting things about this case is that the bakery do not refuse to do business with the the couple. In fact, other stock goods we're offered. The bakery simply refused to create a CUSTOM cake.

WisdomLost

Keep in mind that there is a REAL difference between "government discrimination" and "private discrimination". The Constitution and other laws are clear on the limitations of governance, and how individuals are to be governed.

However, the Bill of Rights places no limitations on individuals. You may have the freedom to peaceable assembly, but not in my yard. You have the right to free speech, but not in my house. You have the right to keep and bear arms, but not on my property. Individuals are not limited by the BoR, except where their rights infringe upon the rights of others.

This case is about government's infringement of the cake shop's rights, not about the infringement of the couple's rights. In all honesty, an individual has the right to render services he/she sees fit. NOT decorating a cake in a manner contrary to ones beliefs is NOT an infringement upon the rights of the customer. Requiring the shop to decorate a cake in a manner contrary to their beliefs IS an infringement upon their rights.

The cake shop owners, if my memory serves, did offer to sell a cake, just not to decorate it. THAT'S the difference.

ProtectRights

WisdomLost is correct. This about protecting the rights of the cake shop owners. Government should not take away the power of the individual to say no. If this law is upheld in favor of the couple, then racist organizations have the right to go to businesses owned by minorities & demand services & products that the business owner may not want to support. Don't take away the freedom of speech, religion, & the power to say no just cause you don't agree with it.

James Linthicum

Liar. Don't take your religious freedoms for granted.

Anonymous

If, in the end, it is the intent of the LBGTQ community to "force their ideal [sic] and values on the rest of society", aren't you supporting the same for people whose religious beliefs do not have room for the LGBTQ community? If, by your argument, you are discriminating again persons of religion in favor of the LGBTQ community, them would not your resolution be to discriminate against persons in the LGBTQ community in favor of religion?

Kat Slander

Kudos for presenting all the latest right-wing talking points without the usual spelling and grammar errors one associates with conservative idiots. Still dangerous propaganda and utter nonsense of course...

Jeriah Knox

If you see someone walking off a cliff, you should be free to say something.

Anonymous

If your business is open to the "public", then you must serve everyone equally. By putting a sign on the door "available by appointment only", you may pick and choose whomever you want to do business with. That simple!

Pages

Stay Informed