Monday, 11 December, 2017

How a Supreme Court Decision for Masterpiece Cakeshop Would Harm Religious Minorities

Court building in Washington DC Court building in Washington Thomson Reuters
Howard Terry | 06 December, 2017, 00:27

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a landmark case Tuesday on LGBT rights and whether same-sex couples can be discriminated against under the cover of religious freedom.

Not surprisingly, the same sex couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, see the case through an entirely different lens: discrimination. If you prevail, could the baker just put up a sign outside his shop saying "No gays allowed?" But Colorado's anti-discrimination law also says Phillips can't refuse his service to someone due to their sexual orientation.

In one of the most animated oral arguments the high court has held, justices on both sides peppered four lawyers with questions to illustrate how their decision might affect other merchants, such as chefs and florists, and other minority groups, such as Catholics and African Americans.

More than two years ago, Kennedy penned the Supreme Court's opinion clearing the way for same sex marriage. The conversation lasted about 20 seconds, the ensuing discrimination lawsuit has lasted much longer as it has made its way to the Supreme Court. But if Phillips prevails before the Supreme Court, those who would deny jobs or services to people due to their religious objections will feel even more empowered to do so. In 2015 the US Supreme Court overturned the ban on same-sex marriage.

"And soon thereafter they both raged out and left", he said.

In court papers, Kristen K. Waggoner, a lawyer from the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom who is representing Phillips, argued that the First Amendment guarantees him the right to decline to make wedding cakes that celebrate marriages that are in conflict with his religious beliefs. Not only did the court rule in her favor, it established a rigorous standard for reviewing these types of claims asserted by religious minorities, relying in part on the high standards used in race discrimination cases.

The case will now return to the Houston District Court, and the issue of whether the spouses of gays and lesbians must be afforded employment benefits will go through the court system on its own merits, potentially ending up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court once more.

Kagan replied: "Some people might say that about cakes, you know?" They will urge the court to embrace their interpretation of religious liberty principles, insisting that if they don't win, the rights of people of faith will be in serious jeopardy. The case centers around a dispute between baker Jack Phillips and two men he refused to create a custom wedding cake for.

The court noted that agency's analysis (which it reversed) - which asks whether the message was discriminatory - would lead to "absurd" results: for example, "a man who requests t-shirts stating, 'I support equal treatment for women, ' could complain of gender discrimination if HOO refused to print the t-shirts because it disagreed with that message". "The inquiry, rather, is whether the Constitution gifts organizations open to general society the privilege to disregard laws against segregation in the business commercial center if the business happens to offer a creative item". That signaled a potential compromise in the case - sending it back to Colorado courts to decide whether Phillips was treated unfairly.

Justice Stephen Breyer fretted about a ruling that could "undermine every civil rights law from the year 2".

Craig Konnoth, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Law School, says the court's decision could have broad implications for anti-discrimination laws in Colorado and across the nation. "Accordingly, the government may not enact content-based laws commanding a speaker to engage in protected expression: An artist cannot be forced to paint, a musician cannot be forced to play, and a poet cannot be forced to write".

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