Decades ago, during the civil rights era, this country determined that discrimination is illegal and unconstitutional. Even when some tried to argue that segregation and interracial marriage violated religious beliefs, the Supreme Court was having none of that. A person or business simply citing “it’s against my religion” to try to discriminate against another American was not a legal basis by which an individual can be denied their rights and protections given to them via our Constitution.
Or so we thought.
Decades later, we’re now facing “Jim Crow-type” laws against members of the LGBT community as Republicans all over the country are trying to insist that giving gay Americans equal rights and protections under our laws – just like everyone else – is somehow a “violation” of someone’s “religious freedom.” Essentially we’re right back where we were prior to the civil rights era where bigots are trying to use religion to justify their ignorance and intolerance.
Well, supporters of equality scored a huge win on Monday when the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling concerning Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who attempted to argue that he was within his legal rights (aka religious freedom) to deny his services to gay couples.
As reported by Think Progress:
As the Court of Appeals ruled, refusing to serve a same-sex wedding cannot be distinguished from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, just like a “tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews.” Because his cakeshop does not have a religious purpose, he is not protected by the religious exemptions in the state’s nondiscrimination law.
While I think all forms of discrimination are appalling, if an institution is religious by nature, then I could see some sort of argument being made if someone was trying to force them to do something that violated their religious beliefs.
But Phillips owns a bakery. His business is to provide bakery services (in this instance, a wedding cake) to his customers. It’s not his or his company’s place to deny someone their Constitutional rights simply because he personally doesn’t like that the cake would be consumed at a wedding for a same-sex couple.
And, no, don’t give me the whole, “Well, would you force a Jewish bakery to bake a cake for a Nazi party?” – there’s a massive difference.
We’re not talking about a religion that was subjected to horrific genocide by a monstrous group that’s now represented by pro-Nazi hate organizations. That’s a completely different situation from denying someone your services because you personally disagree with their sexual orientation.
I can’t help but wonder how many cakes the Masterpiece Cakeshop has made for weddings where one or both of the people getting married had been divorced or committed an adulterous affair in a previous marriage. Does Mr. Phillips ask straight couples about those biblical sins? After all, divorce is mentioned as a big “no-no” in the Bible a whole heck of a lot more than homosexuality is.
But this ruling is significant because it’s the last-ditch effort for Phillips to justify his discrimination before he would have to take his arguments all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. That probably won’t go well for him considering the Colorado Supreme Court used last summer’s Supreme Court ruling as part of its justification for ruling against Phillips. It also serves as a warning to other businesses around the country that might think they can get away with this type of discrimination.
While I’m sure he’ll keep pushing this issue – bigots often do – at least on Monday equality won once again.
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