LA LGBT Center’s Resistance Squad Volunteer Kate Ryan
You’ve likely heard that the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case could diminish civil rights legislation as we know it. Between now and the end of June, the Supreme Court will decide whether to rule in favor of a baker who believes it is his right to discriminate against same-sex couples demanding equal treatment for all.
This decision could have vast consequences for the U.S. legal system for a number of reasons. Because the cake shop owner is essentially asking for an LGBTQ exception to nondiscrimination laws, a ruling in his favor would effectively clear the runway for not only businesses to discriminate against the community but healthcare providers, adoption agencies, landlords, and employers as well.
The First Amendment already gives us freedom of both speech and religion; a ruling in the cake shop owner’s favor would allow people to impose their religious beliefs on others, which is a big difference. On the bright side, a ruling in the couple’s favor would not only keep nondiscrimination laws intact but help clarify grey areas in the current legislation. As it stands, most states still don’t have laws to protect LGBTQ people specifically. However, because this is the Supreme Court we’re talking about, there are a few possible outcomes beyond an all-or-nothing, win/loss scenario.
In the event of a limited win, the Court doesn’t grant the cake shop owner the right to discriminate but doesn’t close legal loopholes either. There’s another scenario in which the Court could send the case back to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which effectively takes us back to square one. In a narrow, limited loss, the Court would rule that certain businesses have the right to discriminate, while a broad, limited loss would mean a wide range of businesses can discriminate as long as there are alternative options available for those being discriminated against.
At this time in our nation’s history, we should not be debating whether people have a right—religious or otherwise—to treat other people poorly. And yet, here we are. That is why this case is not about cake. It’s about ensuring people of color, women, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and yes, LGBTQ people, don’t have to live in fear of being turned away because of who they are.
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Please note: This post reflects the views and opinions expressed of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect those of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.