The picture here shows a delicious chocolate cake. Here’s the recipe—the recipe is about the cake. The case being heard at the U.S. Supreme Court today, however, despite having cake in its name, is not really about the cake, but about our civil rights.
Does a business have the right to refuse service to someone (when it would offer the same product or service to someone else) because of the owner’s religious or moral beliefs? That’s the question at the heart of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission—and one that could have serious ramifications for all of us.
For a good, succinct look at the arguments and the players, go read Lisa Keen’s piece at Keen News Service. Lisa won the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for her coverage of another landmark Colorado case involving sexual orientation discrimination—the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evans, when the court struck down a voter-approved initiative that would have exempted everyone from local ordinances that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Other good pieces that dive more deeply into the legal nitty-gritty are “The anti-LGBTQ baker is actually trying to convince the Supreme Court that homosexuality isn’t real” by Zack Ford at ThinkProgress, and “What The Legal Issues Are — And Aren’t — In The Gay Wedding Cake Case At The Supreme Court,” by Dominic Holden at BuzzFeed, which looks at the extent and limits of existing nondiscrimination protections.
The ACLU’s video “The Masterpiece Cakeshop Case: What You Need to Know” is also a good two-minute overview, if you prefer video:
For more on how pastry has become a flashpoint for civil rights, see my piece from last month, which also notes some of the consequences to children if the court decides in Masterpiece’s favor. A few videos point out these consequences (and more) as well. One from Freedom for All Americans reminds us that “A pediatrician could refuse to provide care to a child of a same-sex couple”:
One from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) observes, “It’s about so much more than wedding cakes. It’s about not asking parents to explain to their kids why they weren’t welcome—why a business won’t serve their kind of family”:
Another from MAP shows a character saying, “I’m a school counselor. If a student is gay or lesbian, I think that’s wrong, and I shouldn’t have to help them, and I want the right to do that under the law”:
Open to All, a coalition of many LGBTQ and other civil rights organizations, notes, “This case paves the way to eroding the federal Civil Rights Act and dismantling state and federal laws intended to protect people of color, women, religious minorities, people with disabilities, LGBT people and others from discrimination.” Masterpiece could impact not only sexual orientation nondiscrimination protections, but also those for transgender people, as well as women (cis and trans), people who have been divorced, have used IVF or other assisted reproduction techniques, and more.
Despite today’s hearing, the case likely won’t be decided for many months (possibly until next June). That’s why we need to keep talking about it. Additionally, please sign the ACLU’s statement of support for the two gay plaintiffs. The ACLU notes, “When deciding cases, Supreme Court Justices don’t only listen to the attorneys’ arguments. They also take statements of support into account.” Whether that will be enough remains to be seen. All the more reason for us to try our best. Share the videos above and help spread the word like a creamy frosting.