Americans United joined allies outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 5 to show support for religious freedom and fairness as the justices heard arguments in the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The case involves a Colorado bakery that cited religious beliefs about marriage equality when it refused to make a wedding cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig in 2012. Colorado’s Court of Appeals ruled Masterpiece’s actions violated the state’s anti-discrimination law, which bars businesses from discriminating against people based on their religion, sexual orientation, race, gender and on other protected grounds.
The bakery, represented by the Religious Right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, appealed the Colorado court’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The bakery’s owner claimed a free speech right to discriminate. AU submitted a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court, arguing no one has a religious right to violate civil rights laws.
AU staff, including Legal Director Richard B. Katskee, were inside the courtroom to hear the arguments, and many more staffers joined the “Open To All” rally on the court’s front steps.
AU Youth Outreach Coordinator Erin Hagen was one of the speakers featured during the rally.
“We need to be clear: Religious freedom does not give us the right to harm our neighbors,” Hagen told the crowd. “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.”
Many speakers drew parallels between refusing services to LGBTQ people to the instances in U.S. history when people of color and religious minorities routinely faced discrimination at places of public accommodation.
“We’ve come too far from the time when interracial and interfaith couples have been turned away,” said Sunu Chandy, legal director at the National Women’s Law Center. “They must lose, and we must win.”
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) was among several members of Congress to participate in the rally.
“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 the promise of America,” Booker said. “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.”
The high court’s decision is expected by the end of June 2018.