Four years later, we’re still arguing whether some vestige of southern segregation has a place here in Colorado and America.
The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the case of whether the religious rights of a Lakewood wedding cake decorator allows him to refuse service to gay customers.
No, is the short answer to a longstanding problem in America.
By refusing to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling, the state’s high court in effect reinforces past rulings that ensure public businesses cannot cite religious beliefs to justify discrimination.
Every time I see historical photos of “whites only” signs in southern shops, restaurants or at water fountains, I marvel at what could possess someone to justify and defend bigotry.
I can remember hugely passionate speeches from the 1960s where Alabama Gov. George Wallace and others argued that it was God’s will the races be separated. He and others invoked previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings upholding segregation and bigotry. Among them was the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, a case trying to resolve whether blacks could be refused business and government services and treated lesser than whites.
“The object of the [Fourteenth] amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to endorse social, as distinguished from political, equality. . . If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.”
And that is where the mystery of this problem begins and ends. Ruling whites had learned and believed that black Americans were somehow inferior to whites, justifying segregation.
And here we are again. Instead of hanging “No Negroes” signs, businesses like the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood want to be able to cite their religion as justification for putting “No Gays” placards on the door. Actually, owner Jack Phillips has said he doesn’t want to do anything so offensive as advertise his bigotry on the front door of his business. He prefers to keep his discrimination quiet and private, seeing how it’s just among him and his god and the two men he refused to make a wedding cake for in 2012, because the Bible tells him so.
But his religion makes clear to him is that homosexuals are inferior to heterosexuals as judged by society, the law, his peers and his maker. It’s no different than the 20th Century U.S. Supreme Court — and for generations after all over The South — ruling that their beliefs justified seeing blacks as inferior to whites, and that the government was righteous in segregating them.
I’ve never been able to understand how Judeo-Christian types decide which parts of the Bible to take seriously, metaphorically, historically or with a pillar of salt. I’ll stipulate that the Good Book has advice on homosexuality, but as many enjoy pointing out, the Bible insists on killing, maiming or snubbing people for things like sassing the husband, talking crap to your mom and dad, adultery and accommodating those with flat noses.
Those age-old “Bible-says” arguments were settled by federal courts and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court long ago. Why can’t we get over it?
In a spate of rulings, such as Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, Atlanta Motel Inc. v. U.S. and Katzenbach v. McClung, and Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent in ruling that there are no reasons public entities and public businesses can discriminate. None.
Hats off to the Colorado American Civil Liberties Union for fighting off the newest attempt to wrap religion around bigotry.
Of course you can believe anything you damn well please. Those who think a blasphemous state supreme court has tromped all over the First Amendment refuse to understand that you have the freedom to practice any religion that suits your fancy, as long as you’re not fancying imposing your view on others, usurping their rights, or outright directly abusing someone. That’s the kind of thing that sets us apart from places where Sharia Law calls for stoning to death mouthy daughters and men who have a thing for other men.
Critics of the entire lawsuit say the ruling should go the other way because these two gay men could easily have found someone else to make a cake to celebrate their same-sex nuptials. That would mean that we should allow businesses to go back to hanging up “Whites Only” signs on businesses, as long as blacks and other minorities have other options at hand.
No. Those of us who know just how seriously wrong that is must help those who don’t understand that homosexual Americans are not inferior to heterosexuals, the same way America helped The South move beyond it. But until everyone in America gets it, we have to have laws and court rulings to fill in the gap. And here in Colorado, that’s what we’ve done.
From Monday’s Associated Press
Colorado court: ruling stands that baker can’t cite religion
DONNA BRYSON, Associated Press
DENVER | The Colorado Supreme Court refused Monday to take up the case of a suburban Denver baker who would not make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, letting stand a lower court’s ruling that the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner cannot cite his Christian beliefs in refusing service.
The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the development.
“The highest court in Colorado today affirmed that no one should be turned away from a public-facing business because of who they are or who they love,” Ria Tabacco Mar, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project who argued the case, said in a statement. “We all have a right to our personal beliefs, but we do not have a right to impose those beliefs on others and discriminate against them.”
Tabacco Mar had argued on behalf of Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who had been refused service by baker Jack Phillips.
Attorney Nicolle Martin, who represents Phillips, said they had not yet decided whether to accept the ruling, ask Colorado’s highest court to reconsider, or approach the U.S. Supreme Court. Martin says she is surprised the Colorado court would not consider the case.
“This is a matter that affects all Americans, not just people of faith,” Martin said.
Phillips declined to make a cake in 2012 for Craig and Mullins, who were married in Massachusetts and planned a celebration in Colorado. The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which ruled in December 2013 that Phillips discriminated against them and ordered him to change his store policy against making cakes for gay weddings or face fines. The Colorado Court of Appeals also ruled against him.
Phillips, who referred questions from The Associated Press to his lawyer on Monday, has said he has no problem serving gay people at his store, but that making a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding would violate his Christian beliefs.
Such issues have been considered by courts and legislators across the country. A new North Carolina law prevents local and state government from mandating protections for LGBT people in the private sector or at stores and restaurants. The law suffered a blow when a federal appeals court issued an opinion that threatens part of the law requiring students to use bathrooms in line with their gender at birth in public schools and universities.
Colorado lawmakers introduced a bill in February that would have blocked the state from taking any action that may burden a person’s religious freedom unless it was the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. A House committee indefinitely postponed discussion on the bill.
Critics say the legislation that has been proposed in states across the country to protect those who — due to religious beliefs — decline to employ or serve certain people are aimed at the LGBT community and are discriminatory.