LGBT activists condemn ‘heartbreaking and frustrating’ US Supreme Court decision in bakery case
LGBT rights groups have lamented the decision of the US Supreme Court to rule in favour of a baker who refused a cake to a same-sex couple.
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) earlier today ruled in favour of Jack Phillips, a baker who was battling the Colorado Civil Rights Commission over his refusal to provide gay wedding cakes.
The court ruled 7-2 in his favour – and though the narrow ruling shied away setting out a wider case for the right to discriminate based on religion, LGBT groups and allies have expressed fear about the potentially-harmful precedent.
Gay couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, who were denied a cake by Phillips, said: “Today’s decision means our fight against discrimination and unfair treatment will continue.
“We have always believed that in America, you should not be turned away from a business open to the public because of who you are.
“We brought this case because no one should have to face the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation of being told ‘we don’t serve your kind here’ that we faced, and we will continue fighting until no one does.”
Pro-LGBT law firm Lambda Legal lamented: “This 7-2 ruling, while limited, invites discrimination and further efforts to justify withholding service from LGBTQ people. This will encourage all sorts of mischief by well-funded anti-LGBTQ organizations who want to create exceptions to nondiscrimination laws.
“We’re going to see years of needless, hurtful litigation by those seeking to evade responsibility for discriminating against members of our community.
“The Court today has turned its back on longstanding precedent and offered not just encouragement but a roadmap to those who would deny civil rights to LGBTQ people and people living with HIV.
“Religious freedom under our Constitution has always meant the right to believe whatever you wish. NOT to act on your beliefs in ways that harm others.
“SCOTUS has become an accomplice in the right’s strategy to hollow out one of its finest achievements, the right to equal marriage, and create what Justice Ginsberg memorably termed ‘skim milk marriages.’
“We are ready to fight back and make sure this heartbreaking and infuriating decision is understood for what it is: a narrow ruling limited to unique facts that cannot be used to justify discrimination in any other context.
“We will continue to fight in every arena and in every court until LGBTQ people and people living with #HIV have full equality under the law in every aspect of our lives. We deserve no less.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “In today’s narrow ruling against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court acknowledged that LGBTQ people are equal and have a right to live free from the indignity of discrimination.
“Anti-LGBTQ extremists did not win the sweeping ‘license to discriminate’ they have been hoping for – and today’s ruling does not change our nation’s longstanding civil rights laws.
“Yet, the fact remains that LGBTQ people face alarming levels of discrimination all across the country and HRC’s efforts to advance equality are as urgent as ever.
“With LGBTQ people at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services in 31 states, HRC continues to build momentum for the Equality Act, to elect pro-equality candidates up and down the ballot, and fighting in every corner of our country to advance policies that protect LGBTQ people from being targeted for who they are or whom they love.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said: “As a nation, we’ve already rejected the idea that businesses open to the public have a license to discriminate against people because of who they are.
“Colorado law prohibits discrimination based on who you are. We’re confident the courts will once again rule that businesses don’t have a right to discriminate.
“Thank you to Charlie and Dave for your courage. We won’t stop fighting until we ALL have equal treatment under the law.”
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said: “Though freedom of religion is an American value, discrimination is not. While this decision does not change existing civil rights protections, it leaves the door wide open for religious exemptions to be used against LGBTQ people.
“Today’s decision emboldens the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom and the Trump Administration in their persistent push to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people under the misnomer of religious freedom. LGBTQ people will continuously be vulnerable until the liberty and justice for all tenants of the Constitution apply to all Americans, including LGBTQ people.”
The LGBTQ Victory Institute said: “Today is a sad day for America and especially for LGBTQ youth who have grown up believing in the inevitable move toward fairness and justice for our community. That path toward justice ebbs and flows, and today the Supreme Court led us away from one of the basic tenants of American idealism – that all are treated equally.
“While the Supreme Court made a narrow ruling focused exclusively on a state agency’s treatment of a Colorado baker, opponents of equality will use it to try and open the floodgates. Homophobic forces will purposefully over-interpret the ruling and challenge existing non-discrimination laws by refusing service to LGBTQ people in even more situations – denying them dinner at a restaurant, lodging at a hotel, or renting an apartment.
“State and local civil rights enforcement offices are now on the frontlines in protecting LGBTQ people from widespread discrimination, so it is critical we pressure elected leaders to fully fund these agencies and ensure they have the resources to push back on attempts at discrimination.
“LGBTQ elected officials like Colorado State Rep. Leslie Herod have led efforts to build up state and local enforcement agencies, and now we need all elected officials who support equality to prioritize these offices given today’s ruling. Our representatives must respond.”
Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU said: “The court reversed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people.”
Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez said: “This case was never just about a wedding cake. It was about all people– no matter who they are – having the right to celebrate their love without facing discrimination. The Democratic Party believes that no individual has a license to discriminate.
“We believe in the dignity of every human being. And we will continue to fight for equality for LGBTQ people in all areas of our society – from housing and health care, to bathrooms and boardrooms, to bakeries and the ballot box.”
Anti-LGBT law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, a listed anti-LGBT hate group, celebrated the ruling.
It said: “Jack serves all customers; he simply declines to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deeply held beliefs.
“Creative professionals who serve all people should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment.
“Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, yet the state of Colorado was openly antagonistic toward Jack’s religious beliefs about marriage.
“The court was right to condemn that. Tolerance and respect for good-faith differences of opinion are essential in a society like ours. This decision makes clear that the government must respect Jack’s beliefs about marriage.”
The baker Jack Phillips said: “It’s hard to believe that the government punished me for operating my business consistent with my beliefs about marriage. That isn’t freedom or tolerance. I’m so thankful to the U.S. Supreme Court for this ruling.”