Despite claims to the contrary, the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision was not a victory for conservative Christians who want to discriminate against gays.
Today’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Bakeshop, was not a broad victory for gay-hating Christians trying to justify discrimination based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.
Instead, the ruling was a narrow decision that simply found that the original decision against Phillips at the state level was illegitimate because the Colorado commission that originally ruled against the anti-gay baker was tainted by anti-religious hostility.
The Washington Post reports:
While you’ll probably see a lot of headlines proclaiming “Christian Baker Wins At Supreme Court!”, in fact the justices decided not to decide the underlying question of whether someone like that baker can discriminate against certain customers.
National Center for Lesbian Rights explains:
Today’s Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop is a narrow, fact-based decision that does not break any new constitutional ground or create any new exemptions to anti-discrimination laws. The Court reversed the state court decision only because it found that the record in this case indicated that the Colorado Commission’s deliberations were tainted by anti-religious hostility.
Nothing in the Court’s decision would require or permit the Commission to have reached a different substantive result in protecting the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Today’s decision leaves intact the longstanding principle that states can require businesses open to the public to serve everyone, even when some businesses believe that doing so violates their religious beliefs.
In other words, the decision makes no changes to the law, sets no new precedent, and applies to one person only: Jack Phillips, the anti-gay Christian baker. However, despite this fact, many gay-hating, conservative Christians are attempting to use the decision to claim victory in their war on the LGBT population.
For example, Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, a Christian hate group, described the decision as a victory for religious freedom:
This is a victory for Jack Phillips and our nation’s long cherished freedom of following one’s deeply held beliefs without fear of government punishment.
Perkins is right that this is a victory for Phillips. However, he is wrong when he claims that the decision is a victory for those who want to discriminate against LGBT people. In fact, some even say the decision is actually a victory “for the LGBT community and supporters of equality.”
If anything, the Supreme Court’s ruling is in part a win for the LGBT community and supporters of equality. Here’s the key passage from the Court’s majority opinion: “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.”
And Quarts reports:
The Supreme Court’s Colorado baker decision contains a robust defense of gay rights.
Bottom line: The Masterpiece Cakeshop decision was not a big victory for conservative Christians who want to discriminate against gays; instead, the decision makes no changes to the law, sets no new precedent, and applies to one person only: Jack Phillips, the anti-gay Christian baker.