By Valerie Ploumpis, National Policy Director
On December 5, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This landmark case may decide whether businesses that serve the public have a constitutional right to discriminate against LGBTQ people by using carve outs for religiously motivated obections to existing civil rights laws.
The potential impact of Masterpiece Cakeshop could have far reaching implications for LGBTQ people and other historically marginalized groups. If the Court rules on behalf of the bakery, commercial entities that claim they hold “sincerely held religious beliefs” could be permitted to discriminate against potential customers on the basis of not only sexual orientation but also race, religion, and national origin among other things.
Equality California is a Supporting Organization in the Masterpiece Cakeshop amicus brief and has urged every Member of the California Congressional delegation to sign onto to the Congressional amicus brief. To date, 19 US Senators have done so, including California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, as have 130 House Members, including Leader Nancy Pelosi.
We also strongly support the ‘Do No Harm’ Act (HR 3222), a Federal proposal introduced by Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). Cosponsored by many California Congressional Members, ‘Do No Harm’ would amend the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to expressly protect civil rights, including those of LGBTQ people.
Equality California is gravely concerned about the Trump Administration’s systematic efforts to chip away at civil rights protections. Just in the past few months, for example, such efforts have included attempts to withhold rights automatically granted to legally-married couples to same-sex ones, deny transgender people the right to enlist in the military, remove federal guidance that protects transgender students, argue that Title VII (sex discrimination in employment) protections do not apply to sexual orientation or gender identity, make it harder for women to secure health care coverage for birth control, reduce access to legal abortion, and many others. We will remain vigilant about any effort to weaken civil rights protections, including those advanced on the grounds of religious liberties.
Discrimination has no place in our country. All people should be treated fairly and equally under the law. When LGBTQ people walk into a business that is open to the public, they should be treated like anyone else and be protected “from the indignity and humiliation that comes from being denied service on a discriminatory basis,” as stated in the Congressional amicus brief in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which concluded that civil rights “laws make it possible for everyone to participate in public life.”
More about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and its importance for the LGBTQ community can be found by clicking here