Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Supreme Court Did NOT Justify Religious Discrimination

(Photo is from CNN.com.)

Many states have passed anti-discrimination laws prohibiting businesses from discriminating against the LGBT community. Some businesses have said they should be able to discriminate against that community because of their religion. A Colorado baker used such a claim to refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that the baker had violated the law, and that decision was upheld by an appeals court. That decision was then appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued their ruling. The overturned the decision of the appeals court, finding in favor of the baker. But this decision should not be cause for celebration by the religious right, or condemnation by Americans opposed to discrimination -- because the Supreme Court did NOT decide the most important question (whether businesses can discriminate by hiding behind religion).

The court's 7-2 decision was a very narrow one, and applies only to this one case. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said:

"The commission's hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment's guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion." 
"The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market,"
The state laws preventing businesses from discriminating (even through religion) are still in effect -- including the Colorado law. While both sides had hoped the Supreme Court would rule on the legality of the state laws against discrimination, the court didn't do that. They wimped out.

Only three justices were brave enough to decide the real issue. Justice Thomas, who voted with the majority, did so because he believes businesses should be able to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds. Justice Ginsberg and Sotomayor stood up against discrimination, saying:

"When a couple contacts a bakery for a wedding cake, the product they are seeking is a cake celebrating their wedding -- not a cake celebrating heterosexual weddings or same-sex weddings -- and that is the service (the couple) were denied."

The six justices who dodged the question should be ashamed of themselves for their cowardice. Discrimination by a business is not OK, even when disguised as religion.

1 comment:

  1. I was nervous when I saw the Supreme Court headline yesterday, but that decision was not really generally applicable (except to the extent that maybe the Supremes are saying the Colorado Civil Rights Commission are sort of jerks).

    Twenty years ago, my Con law professor tried to convince us that Thomas was more conservative than Scalia, but that Scalia just got all of the attention. It's taken me a couple decades and Scalia's death for me to see that prof was right.


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