I’m officially jumping on to Twitter’s “unpopular opinion” bandwagon by saying that the Supreme Court made the right decision on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, better known as the “Christian baker refusing to serve a gay couple” case.There, I said it. Before anyone calls for my head on a rainbow platter, I am nonreligious, a liberal; I’m also an ardent supporter of LGBT rights and a secular government —… and I support this decision. In the post Obergefell v. Hodges era, this ruling in favor of Jack Phillips — the Christian baker in question — seems like an abrupt u-turn towards the good ol’ shock therapy days. How could I possibly support it?
Well first, it’s more of a speed bump than anything. This case did not legitimize “religious freedom” as a reason to refuse service. The Court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was biased and openly hostile towards Phillip’s beliefs during the cease-and-desist proceedings. That’s it. While the case passed through lower courts on the issue of free speech, the SCOTUS took a different approach: the Free Exercise Clause.
Sometimes overlooked, this part of the Constitution ensures that the government does not endorse or oppose any particular religion or irreligion. As it applies to this case, the CCRC should’ve been neutral and unbiased in determining its opinion of Phillip’s refusal. However, they weren’t.
One commission member compared Phillip’s refusal to the Holocaust, saying, “freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust.” While slave owners touted “God’s will” and Hitler and Nazis were rabid anti-Semites, we’re talking about a cake here. It may be poor business practice, but it certainly isn’t genocide or chattel labor. According to this guy, refusing to bake a cake is just as grievous an offense.
Not only did members make inflammatory remarks, but they also ruled differently in similar cases involving bakers refusing to produce wedding cakes. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in writing the court’s opinion, remarked that they concluded “on at least three occasions that a baker acted lawfully in declining to create cakes with decorations that demeaned gay persons or gay marriages.”
These actions point to the commission making a biased and unfair judgment on Phillips’s refusal, in the process violating Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws. I don’t agree with Phillips — he’s simply providing a service, not “supporting gay marriage” — but I do believe he should be treated as every other American. Now I could go on a saccharine tangent about how humans are flawed and Phillips’s Christianity is a belief important to him, but those are common sense ideas.
TThe main point I’m trying to make is that this case should not be reported on or thought of as a repealing of the rights of gays. It’s not handing unequal power to religious groups. This decision simply ensures that religions aren’t treated unfairly by the government, nothing more. Justice Kennedy also authored the court’s opinion on the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Mullins and Craig, accepted and supported the parts of the opinion in which the rights of gays are affirmed, not denied or weakened.
In this era of sensationalist media reports and ubiquitous presence of misinformation, it is important to isolate mere fact from wild speculation. While this decision may worry some about the future of LGBT rights under a conservative Supreme Court, I can assure you that it is far from crushing them.