LGBT community leaders – not all of whom are in agreement on the June 5 election – came together this afternoon to denounce the Supreme Court’s ruling in the wedding-cake case. But one lawyer also urged the crowd not to let the right wing take this as a victory.
The decision, in a Colorado case where a baker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, stopped short of saying that private businesses have the right to discriminate against LGBT people.
But it did say that in this case, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to show proper deference to the baker’s religious beliefs.
If you read the entire decision, it’s a bit stunning: The US Supreme Court took the comments of one member of a Colorado commission, who said in public that religious beliefs have been used to excuse all sorts of discrimination and oppression in the past, as grounds to make a statement that hate groups may use to promote their agenda.
Leslie Katz, a lawyer and former supervisor who is on the board of Equality California, said that “as much as the far right will try to claim this as a victory, far from it.” She said that the decision, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, specifically stated that LGBT people have the right to be protected from discrimination.
But despite what some people called a “narrow” ruling, that just applies to this case, the message the Court sent is alarming.
“Now one in business serving the public should have to right to discriminate against anyone,” Mark Leno, former state senator and candidate for mayor, said.
Imagine, he said, if the Court ruled that it’s okay “to say I won’t do business with you because you are a Jew, or Black, or Chinese. Yet this cake shop could say that to a gay couple. … The message that this sends to our community is painful. When it comes to LGBT people, it’s still okay to discriminate.”
Justices Ruth Ginsburg and Sonya Sotomayor addressed that question in their dissent. While the Court majority compared this case to others in which Colorado bakers refused to decorate cakes with hate messages, the dissent states, those bakers would have denied that service to anyone. In this case, the baker would not sell to the plaintiffs “for no reason other than their sexual orientation, a cake of the kind he regularly sold to others.”
Sup. Jeff Sheehy said that the ruling pits religion against gay rights. “This idea that LBGT people are not people of faith is wrong,” he said. “We are Catholics, we are Jewish, we are Episcopalians, we are Baptists. To pit religion against the LGBT community is horrifying.”
Rafael Mandelman, a Community College Board trustee who is running against Sheehy, agreed: “It is absolutely clear that we have not achieved full legal equality.”
Three of the speakers are running for office. Others in the crowd have supported or opposed them. But everyone agreed to put the campaign signs down – literally, they all put them down on the ground – for a moment to agree on this decision.