Ruling in Colorado Bakery Case Sends Message About Discrimination
The Supreme Court made it clear that you cannot target people based on religion or sexual orientation — but left the future of similar cases in limbo.
The United States Supreme Court ruled on Monday morning in favor of a baker hailing from Colorado who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple. The victory is a shaky one, though, as it deflected from the broader issue.
"The justices, in a 7-2 decision, said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed an impermissible hostility toward religion when it found that baker Jack Phillips violated the state's anti-discrimination law by rebuffing gay couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012. The state law bars businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation."
The majority ruling cited a specific comment a former commissioner, Diann Rice, made. Rice said that "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."
But, "Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.
"Colorado law can protect gay persons, just as it can protect other classes of individuals, in acquiring whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public."
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented. In the dissent, Justice Ginsburg wrote that she agreed with the parts of the majority ruling that favored gay rights.
But uncertainties remain, according to JoLynn Markison, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney in its labor and employment practice.
"The Supreme Court failed to consider whether the Commissioner's 'inappropriate' statement about religion impacted the outcome of Commission's decision," Markison explained. "Finding instead that the Commissioner's statement evinced 'hostility' towards religion, the Supreme Court invalidated the Commission's decision without analyzing whether the decision was correct. In so doing, the Supreme Court sidestepped the ultimate question in this case — whether freedom of religion can be used to discriminate against gay people in places of public accommodation."
"We can expect to see many more instances of public businesses refusing to provide services to gay people in the name of religious freedom. The Supreme Court may have dodged the issue for now, but it will not be able to avoid it forever," Markison added.
Justice Kennedy made it clear in his ruling that the issue will indeed come up again — and the Court will keep in mind religious rights as well as those of the LGBT community.
"The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market," he wrote.
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For her actions, Wendy Bies spent the night behind bars.
Wendy Bies, a 53-year-old white woman, walked into the Gallatin County Courthouse looking for a ballot; she walked out of the courthouse with a criminal record.
How did this trade happen? She saw Brian Mango waiting in line to vote in the Montana's battleground U.S. Senate and congressional campaigns on Tuesday, and told the 22-year-old, "Go back where you came from."
"Do you know why mom is here? Because Americans bombed her country," Mango said of his mother, a refugee from Laos.
"Do you know why my dad's here? Because they brought his ancestors here in chains," he said of his father, who is Black.
Bies replied with ridicule, "They wanted to come to America to get out of that f*cking a**-hole city. So don't you tell me this is not where you want to be."
Realizing that she may have started something she could not get out of, Bies bellowed, "You are not going to stop me from voting. We need a civil order to separate us."
Mango said Bies began making racial comments after she told him he had a "cute butt."
Footage was captured by Tennison Big Day, a Native American, who was behind the two of them in line. Big Day told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle he heard Bies claim that it was President Trump who gave Mango his voting rights.
Bies spent the rest of election night in Gallatin County jail after being arrested on charges of obstructing a police officer and disorderly conduct. She pleaded not guilty and remained jailed on $500 bail Wednesday afternoon.
See the video:
Election Day arrest at Gallatin County Courthouse youtu.be