Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Americans United staff members were outside with allies urging the high court to say businesses should be #OpenToAll and that they should not be allowed to use religion to discriminate.
Chants of “love wins!” echoed on the #OpenToAll side of the Supreme Court demonstrations. The rally started with an inclusive prayer, then moved onto a diverse set of speakers that featured faith leaders, politicians and activists, including AU’s very own Youth Outreach Coordinator Erin Hagen.
“We need to be clear: Religious freedom does not give us the right to harm our neighbors,” Hagen said at the rally. “It is not a license to treat some among us as second-class citizens, and it certainly does not give anyone the right to break the law in order to discriminate.”
Masterpiece is an important case that will have significant implications on nondiscrimination laws that protect everyone, especially LGBTQ people, women and minorities.
Many speakers drew parallels between refusing services to LGBTQ people to the United States’ shameful history of refusing service to people of color.
“We've come too far from the time when interracial and interfaith couples have been turned away,” Sunu Chandy, the legal director at the National Women's Law Center, said. “They must lose, and we must win.”
Before reaching the Supreme Court, a Colorado state court said that a suburban Denver bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination law – which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – when it refused to provide a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a same-sex couple, for their wedding reception. The court ruled that neither the bakery nor its owner had a religious-freedom right to violate the law. Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing that religious freedom is not an excuse to discriminate against others.
The owner of the shop asked the Colorado Supreme Court to hear the case, but it declined. His attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Religious Right legal group that often defends people who want to discriminate in the name of religion, then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
AU's Erin Hagen speaking at yesterday's Open to All rally outside the Supreme Court.
Masterpiece Cakeshop wants to use religious beliefs to treat LGBTQ folks like second-class citizens, but religious freedom is about fairness. It is not a license to discriminate.
Faith leaders who were among the many speakers at the rally agreed, saying that religious freedom is no excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others.
“It is my firm belief that religion can be and must be a force of love, understanding, and connection... I stand against religion as a force used to shun,” Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, the deputy director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, said.
Several members of Congress attended the rally, including U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), who emphasized that everybody deserves to be treated equally under the law.
Krishnamoorthi said: “It doesn't matter where you came from, or what language you speak, or whom you love … You are an American, and that is the fundamental question. Are we not all entitled to equality?”
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) offered a powerful address, telling the crowd, “I stand here today because when it came to my family’s rights and equal citizenship, black folks and white folks, Christians, Jews, Muslims, gay, straight marched and fought … to make real on the promise of America. And now, we are gathered here today before the highest court of the land to let them hear our passion. … To deny anyone equal access … is absolutely unacceptable.”
As we await the Supreme Court’s decision, it’s important to remember that religious freedom should be a shield, not a sword for discrimination.
“When discrimination is cloaked as religious freedom, it threatens the rights and the religious freedom of all Americans, and it especially harms LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, and nontheists,” Hagen said.
We’re proud to be a part of the Open to All campaign. Religion is no excuse to harm others, and the Supreme Court should rule that businesses open to the public should be open to all, regardless of sexual orientation.