President Trump and Attorney General Sessions Want to Enshrine a Business Right to Discriminate Into the Constitution

Can businesses put up a sign that says, “We Don’t Sell To Gays?” President Trump says yes.

Today Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Supreme Court in an amicus brief that businesses have a constitutional right to discriminate against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That means that business owners could put a sign in the window saying, “We Don’t Serve Gays,” even if a state or Congress says anti-gay discrimination is unlawful.

While the Justice Department says this wouldn't necessarily allow businesses to turn people away because of their race, if the Constitution protects such a right to discriminate against gay people, it would also authorize businesses to discriminate based on national origin, sex, religion, disability, gender identity, or any other basis. That means businesses could put up other signs as well: “We Don’t Sell to Women.” “No Muslims.” “No Transgender People.” All in open defiance of the nation’s civil rights laws.

How did we get here?

The case before the Supreme Court has deceptively simple facts. Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig were planning their wedding reception in Colorado. Along with Charlie’s mom, Dave and Charlie went to the Masterpiece Cakeshop bakery near Denver to order a cake in July 2012. The bakery turned them away, saying it doesn’t make wedding cakes for gay couples because that would violate its religious beliefs and artistic freedom.

Everyone in this country should be opposed to such a radical ruling that would undermine America’s core commitment to equality.

Under long-standing Colorado law, businesses that are open to the public can’t turn customers away because they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual. That’s just what happened here, so Charlie and Dave sued. The Colorado courts agreed that it was discrimination and ruled that free speech and religious protections don’t give anyone a right to discriminate.

It’s easy to dismiss the case as trivial. Dave and Charlie could — and did — get a cake from another bakery. And few people would really want a cake from a bakery that doesn’t actually want to bake it.

But consider what a ruling for the bakery could mean here — constitutional protection for discrimination based on freedom of religion or expression. That’s breathtaking in its scope and consequences. It would mean that a florist could refuse to sell flowers for the funeral of an interfaith couple, a dance studio could turn away the children of an interracial couple, an architect could put up a sign saying, “No Jews,” a doctor could turn away transgender people altogether. And each and every law that makes discrimination illegal would be overridden by the constitutional right to discriminate.

In fact, the consequences go far beyond nondiscrimination laws.

If any business has a constitutional right to express its views or its religion by refusing to comply with a nondiscrimination law, it could defy other government rules as well. Businesses could refuse to follow food safety rules because they want to express themselves through their refusal. Or a company could flout consumer protection regulations because they are inconsistent with its religious beliefs.

This case has never been about the cake. It’s about whether anyone in America can be turned away from a business because of who they are. It’s about whether the Constitution gives businesses the right to discriminate whenever they want to.

Everyone in this country should be opposed to such a radical ruling that would undermine America’s core commitment to equality. That President Trump has endorsed a right to discriminate against LGBT people may not be surprising, given his earlier actions to strip transgender youth of protections in schools and to deprive lesbian, gay, and bisexual people of federal civil rights protections altogether. But it couldn’t be more un-American or shameful.

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Anonymous

He thinks he will go to hell if he bakes that cake. If you honestly thought you'd be damned to someplace like hell for all eternity for an action would you do it to be conciliatory? You aren't terrified that you will be damned to hell if you find another cake maker so it makes sense for you to yield on this one. Its like when someone comes over to my house whose terrified of dogs. I put the dogs outside even if I think the person is being a bit dramatic because that persons terror trumps my mild annoyance at having to put my dogs outside.

Dadzilla

"Gays would do more good by being conciliatory to these people. They are not changing minds by forcing."

Your right, blacks should have sat in the back of the bus, and while at it, the Jews should have cheerfully marched aboard the trains. On second thought, maybe you're wrong.

Anonymous

Haha..faggots

Anonymous

Haha, asshole.

Anonymous

As someone who doesn't own a business, and doesn't understand the legalese of it, I've noticed that a lot of businesses have the sign 'we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone'. Is this a legally binding phrase? Is it used as a cover to try and get away with situations like this? Or does it have an entirely different meaning, which doesn't really apply to cases like this?

Anonymous

Essentially you can refuse services for anything not covered under the civil rights act. For example if someone is being an asshole and completely rude to your staff you can eject them from the premises and refuse to serve them, because being an asshole isn't a protected class. Another thing with that is that some restuarants will set dress codes like no shoes, no shirt no service, which is also legal.

You can't however refuse service based on a person's race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. These are protected classes.

Bay Area Californian

Respect private property, ACLU. It's the baker's business, he gets to decide what he wants to do with it, and part of what it means when we say America is a "free country" is that people are *free* to make bad choices, like refusing business because of someone's sexuality.

Anonymous

WRONG!

We're not talking about someone *private* property. You open a business to serve the "public", that means you can't discriminate.

Let's not give people the "freedom to discriminate" because sometimes, the "hidden hand" can be too hidden.

Anonymous

The US Constitution, the Federal Civil Rights Acts and Anti-discrimination laws, the various State Constitutions their Anti-discrimination laws ALL forbid discrimination based on religious belief. That is EXACTLY what they are saying is legal now. Religion vs. sexuality is a false comparison. What they're doing is discrimination based on the fact that LGBTQ people don't share their religious beliefs or follow their religion's rules. It's no different than if they were discriminating against any other group who don't believe the same things they do or follow their religion's rules.

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