Fighting Discrimination

We’re already seeing fallout from the Supreme Court’s misguided ruling in 303 Creative – and it’s ugly

  Rhys Long

The Supreme Court’s reprehensible ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis has already engendered a new, reinforced wave of discrimination against LGBTQ+ folks across the country.

In Michigan, hair salon owner Christine Geiger has made clear her intentions to refuse service to certain members of the LGBTQ+ community. In a Facebook post, Geiger said “If a human identifies as anything other than a man/woman please seek services at a local pet groomer. You are not welcome at this Salon. Period…. This is America; free speech.” Geiger later claimed that while lesbian, gay and bisexual customers are welcome, “the rest of [the LGBTQ+ community] is not something I support.”

Anti-LGBTQ+ forces are empowered

This is, of course, a result of the new “right to discriminate” from the 303 Creative decision, which has galvanized Christian Nationalists and intolerant people everywhere. Transphobes, believing that the Supreme Court has their backs, no longer fear banning trans people from their establishments. They think they’ve found an excuse to be openly discriminatory under the guise of free speech.

Geiger’s announcement is reportedly in protest of a piece of Michigan legislation that would criminalize misgendering someone. The problem is, this legislation does not actually exist; Geiger misunderstood a bill that would extend hate crime laws to protect LGBTQ+ Michiganders and ran with her flawed interpretation of the bill.

Despite her failure to understand this legislation, Geiger is framing her discrimination as a matter of free speech and doesn’t consider it a violation of civil rights. She seems to believe that her hair-styling services are a form of speech and that, under the ruling in 303 Creative, she has the right to discriminate against customers on the basis of their identities. Not everyone is convinced. Nathan Triplett, president of the ACLU’s Michigan chapter, has opined that the ruling in 303 Creative “does not permit this type of discrimination.”

What conduct is covered?

The high court’s ruling covers “expressive”  conduct. Is cutting hair an expressive form of speech, or is it purely a service? The answer to that seems pretty clear: While hair styling can involve a certain amount of creativity, cutting the hair of an LGBTQ person does not, in any way, send a message of endorsement or agreement. But that won’t stop Christian Nationalists from making the argument, and we don’t know how far this radicalized Supreme Court is willing to go. (Officials in the Michigan Attorney General’s office say they don’t consider cutting hair to be an expressive service.)

It’s clear that Geiger and Christian extremists across the country view the 303 Creative ruling as a free pass to discriminate. Regardless of whether these extremists win or lose the myriad cases they will undoubtedly bring as they seek the discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, one thing is clear: protecting the rights of Americans everywhere is now more difficult thanks to this misguided decision.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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