Discrimination by Businesses

Supreme Court Punts On Discrimination Case – For Now

  Rob Boston

I begin most Mondays these days glued to my computer waiting for the Supreme Court to issue a ruling in a pending case concerning the Bladensburg Cross.

It didn’t happen this morning, but something else of interest did occur: The justices sent a case involving an Oregon bakery that refused to serve a same-sex couple back down to a lower court for more legal proceedings.

The case, Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries, concerns a now-closed bakery in Gresham called Sweetcakes by Melissa. As NBC News reports, the case began in 2013 when Rachel Cryer asked baker Aaron Klein and his wife Melissa to make a cake for her commitment ceremony to her partner Laurel Bowman. The Kleins refused, citing their religious beliefs. When Cryer’s mother asked them to reconsider, Aaron Klein quoted from the Book of Leviticus, which condemns homosexual relationships.

The high court’s action today directs an Oregon court to give the legal dispute another look in light of a ruling last year concerning a baker in Colorado. In that case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court found that government agencies had engaged in bias against a bakery that refused to serve a same-sex couple but did not rule that businesses have an affirmative right to cite religion in refusing service to customers.

The issue of whether secular, for-profit businesses have a right under “religious freedom” to deny services to people they decide are “sinful” is roiling the country now. Several cases are in the pipeline, and sooner or later the Supreme Court will have to face the issue head-on.

This morning, the justices essentially kicked the can down the road. The Klein case will go back to an Oregon court for another round of arguments. (It should be noted that the Supreme Court did the same thing with a similar controversy from Washington state, this one concerning a florist who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex couple’s wedding. That case was sent back down to the Washington Supreme Court, which earlier this month unanimously ruled that there was no evidence of bias against the flower shop.)

The Kleins and their allies in the Religious Right are seeking the right to slam the doors of their business in the face of anyone who fails to measure up to their definition of faith. This kind of discrimination flies in the face of our nation’s civil-rights laws, and polls show that Americans oppose it.

One of these cases will eventually reach the Supreme Court again. When it does, the justices should make it clear that religious freedom is not a cover for rank forms of discrimination.

Not on our watch, Governor Landry!

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