Monday, June 26, 2017

SCOTUS to decide if religion can be used as an excuse to discriminate


Folks, particularly the lgbtq community, are learning the hard lesson that elections matter and voting matters:

From Buzzfeed:

The Supreme Court on Monday announced it would hear the case of a Christian baker in Colorado who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, teeing up the country's highest stakes legal showdown about whether laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination can violate religious people's constitutional rights. The justices granted certiorari to hear the case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in its next term, which begins in October. Since same-sex couples won the right to marry, in states and later nationwide, conservative activists have doubled down on lawsuits and legislation that promote religious freedom. They argue that providing wedding-related services to same-sex couples amounts to participating in the ceremonies, thereby violating their rights to religious exercise and free speech.

 . . .While it remains legal in many parts of the US to turn away gay couples from businesses, 21 states ban discrimination in public settings on the basis of sexual orientation, including Colorado. If a business bakes wedding cakes for straight couples, the thinking goes, nondiscrimination laws require they must provide the same service to gay couples. In July of 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins attempted to order a wedding cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, but owner Jack Phillips declined, saying that it would violate his religious beliefs.

ThinkProgress adds:

The bakery at the heart of the dispute in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission claims it has a constitutional right to defy Colorado’s anti-discrimination law because its owner, in the words of a lower court that heard this case, believes that “he would displease God by creating cakes for same-sex marriages.” The bakery claims both that its owner’s religious belief gives it a special right to defy the law, and that requiring the bakery to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding amounts to a form of compelled speech prohibited by the First Amendment. Neither of these arguments holds water under longstanding legal doctrines.

ThinkProgess also speculates on the timing of the coincidental timing of this decision by SCOTUS to hear the case:

Yet, while the bakery does not have much law on its side, the timing of the Court’s announcement suggests that its most conservative members are eager to make some very significant changes to the law now that they have a new ally on the bench. Last year, during the period when the Court had only eight members, Justice Samuel Alito penned an angry dissent from the Court’s decision not to hear a case brought by a pharmacy which claimed a religious right to ignore a regulation requiring it to “deliver lawfully prescribed drugs or devices to patients.” In that dissent, Alito called for an expansive reading of religious objectors’ rights to defy the law. Notably, Alito’s dissent was joined by just two other justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas. It takes four votes for the Court to hear a case. After receiving the bakery’s request to hear Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Court held the case over through five consecutive conferences of the justices without announcing whether or not they will hear the case. The most likely explanation for this behavior is that Roberts, Thomas, and Alito were biding their time until Neil Gorsuch would give them the fourth vote.

However, four votes to hear the case doesn't mean a win. ThinkProgress points out that  the decision may fall again on Justice Anthony Kennedy to be the deciding vote. And in cases with regards to the lgbtq community, specifically with marriage equality, Kennedy has ruled in favor of us.

Still, however, the repercussions of this case go way beyond simply the providing of services at same-sex weddings. If SCOTUS rules that secular entities can use religion as an excuse to discriminate, it opens the door to all sorts of negative possibilities, including gender and racial discrimination.

1 comment:

John Powell said...

There is no easy map to follow here. If SCOTUS decides that this a simple matter of not following established State law, several states may jump to add discriminatory statutes to their books, banking on the hope that SCOTUS will, also, consider it a State matter.

On the other hand, upholding that such discrimination is illegal, no matter how it is cited, will bring cries of suppressed religious freedom. These cries ignoring that such freedom as is wanted, is, in effect, the right to impose one's beliefs on another. Something our Founding Fathers worked hard to avoid by keeping religion out of the laws.

It bears repeating that a decision in favor of the discrimination would be detrimental, not just to the LGBTQ community, but to Blacks and minorities as well. And aside from the recent actions of a radical sect, such a decision could pit religions against one another in open violence not seen for centuries.

A decision either way contains problems; mostly religious. Whatever the outcome some will view it as a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card. What firestorm will the next round bring?