On Monday, the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans took a devastating blow when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Masterpiece Cake Shop owner Jack Phillips, who refused to serve same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins due to his Christian religious beliefs.
The court reversed a lower court’s ruling– one in favor of the couple. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion argued that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, who opposed Masterpiece in the case, had shown “hostility” toward religious freedom arguments in the past and was not a “neutral” decision-maker. Kennedy and six other justices pointed out that Colorado Civil Rights Division has previously supported bakeries’ rights to refuse to make a cake that would have had “decorations that demeaned gay persons or gay marriages.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, RBG herself, isn’t having any of it. “I strongly disagree with the Court’s conclusion that Craig and Mullins should lose this case,” she says in her dissent. Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion was shared by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Kennedy’s side referred to a 2014 case, which was detailed in the court ruling, a man named William Jack had complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Division that bakeries were discriminating against his religious beliefs by refusing to make a cake for him— one which was to include an image of two groomsmen holding hands with a red ‘X’ over them, inscribed: “Homosexuality is a detestable sin. Leviticus 18:2.” One bakery [reasonably] refused to make the “hateful” cake, and when Jack brought his complaint before the state’s Civil Rights Division, arguing they were discriminating against him for being Christian, the state found no probable cause of unequal treatment.
And here is where RBG steps in as the voice of reason. In her dissent, she states the cases aren’t comparable, that a bakery’s refusal to print offensive text isn’t comparable to a bakery’s flat-out refusal to bake cakes for someone because of who they are.
“When a couple contacts a bakery for a wedding cake, the product they are seeking is a cake celebrating their wedding ― not a cake celebrating heterosexual weddings or same-sex weddings ― and that is the service [the couple] were denied,” Ginsburg wrote.
“The cases the Court aligns are hardly comparable,” she says. “The bakers would have refused to make a cake with Jack’s requested message for any customer, regardless of his or her religion. The bakeries’ refusal to make Jack cakes … scarcely resembles Phillips’ refusal to serve Craig and Mullins: Phillips would not sell to Craig and Mullins, for no reason other than their sexual orientation.”
“Jack, on the other hand, suffered no service refusal on the basis of his religion or any other protected characteristic. He was treated as any other customer would have been treated — no better, no worse,” she added.
Read Ginsberg’s powerful dissent in full here : https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-111_j4el.pdf
In related news, a splendid documentary called RBG is now playing in theaters.