Washington, D.C., December 5, 2017 — Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments from the two sides of the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The issue at hand concerns a business open to the public, Masterpiece Cakeshop, whose owner refused to sell or bake a wedding cake for a couple simply because they are gay. The lawyers for the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jack Phillips, argued that as a devout Christian, and an artist, he should not be compelled to make a product that violates not only his freedom of expression, but also his deeply held personal values and beliefs.
Conversely, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission legal team argued that the Constitution already adequately provides cover and protection of religious freedom and the issue is really one of utilizing the First Amendment to create a shield—in essence a license to discriminate.
The case concerns an event in which the plaintiffs, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, went into the Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for their wedding and were refused service by Phillips. The Supreme Court is just hearing the case, some three years after the event and two years after marriage equality became the law of the land, demonstrating that this is a complicated case, with deeply held convictions of rights and fairness on both sides. It will take the nation’s foremost Constitutional scholars—the nine Justices—to resolve the issue.
As the world’s premier non-profit organization dedicated to achieving global workplace equality, Out & Equal stands with Charlie and Dave. As it has been said by many others about this case, “It’s not about a cake.” Our concern is that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop, it will set a precedent with dangerous, rippling effects. Namely, that the ramifications will go far beyond the realm of a simple piece of cake.
Support for Masterpiece Cakeshop paves the way for the re-acceptance of a “we don’t serve your kind here,” a “separate but equal” two-tiered society, and levels of service that this country has rejected for over 50 years as patently unjust. We see the real possibility that a decision against Charlie and Dave will spill over to other marginalized groups; ethnic and racial minorities; women; and that it could impact everything from refusing same-sex couples adoptions to healthcare to housing and almost every other facet of American commerce.
Out & Equal has long understood—as have the vast majority of Fortune 1000 companies who are our partners—that we are stronger together, that discrimination fails everyone, and that diversity and inclusivity are good for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his support for Obergefell, the case that brought us marriage equality,
“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”
We hope that the Supreme Court will come to the same conclusion here, as it did in 2015 when it ruled in favor of marriage equality, and reject the discriminatory arguments presented by Masterpiece Cakeshop and instead stand up for LGBT equality in all forms.