In a few days, the United States Supreme Court will be hearing the case of a Colorado baker who claims that his religious beliefs should allow him not to serve a gay couple. On it's face - and in the hands of the anti-LGBTQ industry - it is a simple case about a baker supposedly having the right to choose his customers.
But it's so much more:
The bakery’s claims are constitutional ones (free speech, freedom of religion), meaning if they win, they will gain a constitutional right to discriminate that can’t be undone with a legislative fix.
A win for the bakery could extend to any kind of business with a creative or custom element—hair salons, restaurants, florists, uber drivers, school counsellors, etc. So it won’t just be that refrain we sometimes hear about “why don’t they go to another bakery?” it will be that throughout people’s lives, they will have to live in fear of discrimination and humiliation, across a whole range of circumstances, and we won’t be able to pass laws to stop it because this will be legal even when nondiscrimination laws are in place.
A win for the bakery could allow for discrimination against many types of people, not just LGBT people but people of color, religious minorities, women, etc. Many assume that existing legal protections against racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination won’t or can’t change. But think about the fact that we are in a country considering a wall, a Muslim ban, where the Supreme Court gutted part of the Voting Rights Act, where white supremacists kill protestors and the protestors are blamed, etc. Once we start chipping away at the foundations of nondiscrimination laws, we are in danger. If a bakery can refuse a gay couple, what’s to stop a florist refusing service to an interracial couple celebrating a wedding anniversary?
We know people support freedom of religion, so that makes them conflicted. But that freedom doesn’t give any of us the right to impose our religious views on others, to harm people, or to discriminate. The bakery owner is still free to believe what he believes and go to the church he goes to.
. . . if the bakery loses, this does NOT mean a Jewish bakery would need to make a swastika cake (or similar examples). Businesses can decide WHAT to sell (wedding cakes but not swastika cakes) but once they sell something (e.g., wedding cakes) they can’t refuse to serve certain kinds of customers in violation of nondiscrimination laws.
In the context of a nation rocked by racial discrimination at levels unseen in decades, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on December 5th in a case that could gut not only state nondiscrimination laws but also erode the Civil Rights Act—and turn back the clock to a time when businesses could tell people, “we don’t serve your kind here.”
In response, a broad coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), civil rights, racial justice and allied organizations have launched Open to All, a national campaign to focus attention on the far-reaching, dangerous risks of the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case.