2017-DEC-05: More reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court hearing:
Adam Liptak is a writer for the New York Times. Within 22 hours of his New York Times article about the court hearing. titled "Justices Sharply Divided in Gay Rights Case" being published, readers had added 1,726 comments to the article! 2 Among last ten comments before the comments section was closed were the following seven:
"Sammy" from Florida: "Its really not a culture war. If you run a business you have to serve everyone, you don't get to discriminate. Period, end of story. if your religion requires you to discriminate against Catholics, or gays, or women, or African-Americans, then you don't run your own business."
"LouiseH" from the UK: "What's the baker's views on divorced people remarrying? Does he refuse to make birthday cakes for children born out of wedlock? And can I presume any cakes for Jewish celebrations are right out?
Surely it can't just be gay marriages he objects to? In a world crammed full of people not doing everything the Old Testament demands, that would make no sense at all." (This comment received 1,144 "likes," by far the largest number among the final ten comments.)
"RedM" from New York state:
"Should the baker be forced to hold a sign saying he supports gay rights? He is not required to make a statement saying that he agrees with the sign and he is allowed say he disagrees with the sign but since a law has been passed supporting gay rights all citizens are required directly or indirectly support gay rights in their capacity. We cannot or no longer voice disagreement with a law we must all support that law regardless of your personal point of view. Does the gay rights law supercede other laws protecting your right to refuse service or to hold an opinion. Are we all required to hold a sign in support regardless of our views. He should not be forced to violate he views if in doing so does not cause physical harm. They can eat cake elsewhere or open their own.
Webmaster's comment to "RedM's" posting:
Actually, the baker has the right to voice disagreement with a law. he can hold any opinion about the LGBT community and gay marriage that he wishes. But if he is operating a business to offer goods or services to the general pubic, then the Colorado law says that he is not allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. Also, everyone else is free to state their disagreement with the law.
"CJ" from California: "I hate this case. I wish the couple hadn't been discriminated against but I don't see how it is legal to compel someone to make a creation they don't agree with. As a gay man I feel a looming doom about the ruling in this case and its broader implications. ..."
"Angela" from Illinois: "HOW is this even an issue that people are still divided on, much less Supreme Court Justices? Gay marriage was made legal in all 50 states of the United States in 2015 so now gay people can legally get married. Wouldn't that logic then apply and mean that they are also legally entitled to wedding dresses/tuxes, catering, flowers, venues, and CAKE from all public wedding businesses? Homophobia will always exist to some extent in our nation but as soon as the government starts insisting that gay people must receive all the same rights as everybody else, popular opinion will start changing even faster. It happened with civil rights for African Americans, and it will happen with civil rights for gay Americans. Let's just take the right position now so we can skip all the other bigotry that comes in between."
"Susan" from Massachusetts: "It's not a 'gay-wedding' cake. It's a wedding cake, period. Since marriage is legal for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples there is [sic] no legal grounds to distinguish one from the other."
"Dave" from California: "This case makes no sense. This is not a question about "forcing" anyone to take part in a ceremony which is against their religion. Does the baker also check for felons, sexual predators or murderers who order cakes for celebrations? Should auto mechanics [be able to] start refusing to repair cars of people who participate in celebrations they disagree with? Should Christian plumbers [be able to] stop fixing the drains of divorced women? Where will this end?" 2
2018-JUN-04: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the defendant, but neatly sidesteps the main question:
In a 7 to 2 ruling, the High Court decided that the defendant, baker Jack Phillips, was innocent. Both the separation between the two sides and direction of the vote surprised many. Most observers expected a closer vote, like 5 to 4. Many expected the rights of the customers to be upheld.
Patty Knap, writing for Patheos, said that the bakery owner in this case:
"... has never refused to serve any person based on who they are or what they look like. Everyone is welcome in his shop -- even the two men who sued him. In fact, he told those men that, even though he couldn’t create a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage, he would be happy to sell them anything else in his shop or design a cake for them for a different occasion.
Phillips has declined to create many custom cakes over his years in business because of the messages they expressed. If you’re looking for an outlandish Halloween cake, a sleazy, boozy themed cake, or a cake celebrating a divorce, this bakery will decline your business." 3
An article in CNBC was titled: "Supreme Court rules narrowly for Colorado baker who wouldn't make same-sex wedding cake." 4 Its heading said:
"The vote was narrow not because of the number of justices for and against, but because of the slim precedent it sets."
That is, the High Court did not rule on whether the baker actively discriminated against his customers on religious grounds in violation of the Colorado human rights law. The Justices only ruled on whether the Colorado Civil Rights Commission discriminated against the baker when it considered the matter.
The article said that the ruling stopped:
"... short of setting a major precedent allowing people to claim exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on religious beliefs.
The justices ... 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 [customer's] race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.
The ruling concluded that the Commission violated Phillips' religious rights under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. ..."
The justices did not issue a definitive ruling on the circumstances under which people can seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws based on their religious views.
The decision also did not address important claims raised in the case including whether baking a cake is a kind of expressive act protected by the Constitution's free speech guarantee.
The author of the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy, wrote:
"The [Colorado Civil Rights] commission's hostility was inconsistent with the First Amendment's guarantee that our laws be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion. ... 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."
That will be a tough balance for a court or a store owner to attain. If the owner is prevented from refusing goods and services to a customer on sincere religious grounds, then the owner will probably feel that her or his religious beliefs are being disrespected and even violated. If a store owner is allowed to refuse goods and services to women, the LGBT community, racial minorities, etc. on religious grounds then the customers will probably feel "indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market," and are told to take a hike.
There may be no solution for this problem -- at least for conflicts involving LGBT customers -- for a few decades. The level of discrimination against the LGBT community in the U.S. will probably continue to fade -- as it has for the last few decades -- into insignificance. Then, perhaps, the controversy will be ruled upon again by the High Court.