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The 2012 case is having arguments heard.
The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the now infamous Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
For those who do not know about this case, it started in 2012 when a cake shop owner and baker named Jack Phillips refused to decorate a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. Charlie Craig and David Mullens, the couple in question, filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that eventually ruled against Phillips in 2015. Phillips has since appealed the ruling before the Supreme Court in June 2017 which agreed to hear the case. The case has since gained national headlines, leading to appearances of Phillips and his attorney Kristen Waggoner on mainstream media networks and talk shows.
Phillips and Waggoner argued in court that forcing Phillips to bake and decorate a cake for a homosexual wedding violated not only his freedom of religion, but also his freedom of speech. The freedom of speech, according to Waggoner, comes into play because Phillips must write messages and decorations on his wedding cakes. Forcing him to write a statement celebrating a homosexual marriage that he does not agree with violates his First Amendment right to say or refuse to say anything he wants. The freedom of religion is obviously affected because Phillips, a devout Christian, religiously believes that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman. Forcing him to violate this religious belief by verbally endorsing a homosexual marriage on a cake would, according to Waggoner, violate another one of his First Amendment rights.
David Cole, arguing on behalf of Charlie Craig and David Mullens, claimed that decorating a cake a specific way does not fall under the umbrella of freedom of speech and that allowing Phillips to refuse to decorate cakes for homosexual weddings is a slippery slope that may lead to other businesses refusing to provide racial minorities or women their services.
I think Jack Phillips is in the right. It’s important to keep in mind that Phillips did not refuse Craig and Mullens outright, but rather refused to make them a cake on which he would have to verbally create a pro-homosexual marriage message.
“Does a jeweler have the right to refuse to sell a wedding ring to a gay couple?” I’ve heard this and other comparisons made, and frankly, they’re not nearly the same as the Phillips case. A jeweler does not have to engrave a message onto every earring they sell. The key aspect of this argument is whether a person has to write or carve something into their product.
Phillips’ argument that his freedom of religion is being violated is an obvious truth. Now there are many Christians in this country who are fine with gays getting married, and there are many who are not. I’ve met Christians on both sides and despite the fact that it’s a hotly contested practice in the Christian church currently, that doesn’t mean that Phillips isn’t allowed to celebrate his own interpretation of the Bible.
I know many people will make the argument that allowing Phillips and people like him to refuse homosexuals’ business is some sort of violation of civil rights laws. Many will equate Jack Phillips’ case to blacks being refused business in the Jim Crow South. First off, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers no protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation. While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated in 2015 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, the Justice Department has stated that the EEOC does not have the power nor the position to decide on the issue. Currently, LGBT discrimination laws vary state-to-state, but there are no federal laws barring businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation. Homosexual marriage is completely legal throughout the United States, but in terms of refusing business, LGBT individuals have no federal laws forcing private businesses to provide their products and/or services to them.
On the state level, Colorado has the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), which bans employers from discriminating based on an applicant’s sexual orientation. The CADA also prohibits any business that sells their products to the Colorado public from discriminating against their customers based on sexual orientation. It is still perfectly legal, under American law, for Jack Phillips to refuse to bake and decorate a cake for a gay wedding. In terms of the legal argument, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the homosexual couple are grasping at straws.
Now if you want to be a pure capitalist about the issue, you may argue that a business should have the right in the United States to refuse anyone service regardless of reasoning. A proponent of a laissez-faire market would state that even if a business owner is a racist and refuses to serve a black or Asian couple, that they have every right to do so as a private businessman or businesswoman. Personally, this is the stance I hold.
Being a bigoted idiot is a morally reprehensible standpoint, but if I think a butcher or a baker or a candlestick maker is a racist asshole, I’ll take my money elsewhere.
Some may even compare this current court case to racially-charged cases from the time of Jim Crow. But this line of reasoning is a complete false equivalency for several reasons.
Firstly, comparing legislation that was as terrible and widespread as Jim Crow to modern day LGBT court cases is disingenuous and asinine. Trying to compare LGBT-related court cases like Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission to cases such as Brown v. Board of Education or even the passing of the Civil Rights Act is hyperbolic to the nth degree. Sorry to say, but LGBT people in the United States are not treated nearly as horribly as black Americans were in the first half of the 20th century. Putting the random acts of discrimination that occur today on par with the gravity of Civil Rights Movement is not only historically and legally inaccurate, but also utterly foolhardy.
Secondly, the only reason racial discrimination amongst businesses was so systematic and harsh during the early 20th century was because state governments enforced it through law. Basic economics dictates that it’s in every business owner’s best interest to gain as large a customer base as possible in the market they participate in.
I’m not saying racism was a large societal problem in the American South during the time of Jim Crow, but Capitalism 101 dictates that if laws like Jim Crow had never been on the books in the first place, there most likely would’ve been far less businesses racially discriminating against black Americans.
I know to many racial and sexual minorities, along with any snowflakes dying to virtue signal, that allowing a racist or homophobe to discriminate in their private property is a tough pill to swallow. But I was taught growing up that you can’t force other people to act the way you want them to, no matter how much you hate what they do or say. As Americans, all we can do is voice our distaste for their reprehensible beliefs and take our business elsewhere. If you feel that strongly about it, start a petition to boycott the business. Speak through your dollars. Leave negative reviews and opinions of the business on the internet. Tell that bigot to their face what you think of them. But what you shouldn’t do is get some government entity to come down and force a person to operate their private property the way you think is right under the threat of imprisonment.