}

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Nothing has changed – YET

To hear those on the Right and Left talk, one would think yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling had changed everything. Often this misinformation happened because of propaganda needs, but most of it can be chalked up to the usual, namely, people not having any idea what they’re talking about. The reality is that, legally, nothing has changed—YET.

In the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission [PDF available from the Court], the Court ruled that the baker was treated unfairly because a couple of Colorado’s commissioners had, in the majority's opinion, said unkind things about religion, meaning the baker didn’t get a “fair” hearing. This is utter nonsense.

The opinion, written by swing vote Anthony Kennedy, was based partly on one Commissioner's observation that throughout history religion has been used as “an excuse to hurt others.” This is factual, not a new idea, and not controversial except to those who are offended by the very idea that others don’t like religion being forced onto them. In fact, this argument was a direct sop to the radical right’s nonsense claim that government is “hostile” to religion and religious views. Kennedy drew FAR too long a bow to try to find something—anything—to back that silly idea.

Silliness of the majority opinion notwithstanding, the fact remains that nothing has actually changed: It was illegal for a business serving the public to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and it remains illegal. That simple reality will lead to further litigation.

The far-right anti-LGBT hate group that represented the baker has been doing victory laps in the media, which will no doubt lead to some “Christian” bakers thinking it’s okay to discriminate against gay people in the 21 states that forbid it. Worse, it will probably embolden bigots in the 29 states that don’t protect their LGBT+ people.

So, while the ruling changes nothing, it will lead to more discrimination against LGBT+ people, and, in some states, more legal action. This is all according to the radical right’s plan.

For years, the radical right professional anti-gay industry has been trying to portray their particular version of “Christians” as being some sort of “victims” who, they constantly claim, are somehow “oppressed” because other people have equal rights. The hate group that represented the baker has been soliciting far-right “Christian” business owners willing to discriminate against LGBT+ people so that the hate group can represent them.

What the radical right is up to is nothing less than taking away the human rights of LGBT people. The hate group in question, and, indeed, the entire radical right professional anti-gay industry, wants to reverse all the progress LGBT+ people have made in the past few decades—the past ten years in particular—and they want homosexuality itself re-criminalised. They can’t do that when LGBT+ people are considered legally equal.

The radical right also can’t successfully repeal civil rights protections for LGBT+ people in the 21 states that have them, not the least because the general public favours them. While they can, and have, repealed civil rights protections that cities have enacted, it’s an expensive effort with no guarantee of success. These efforts are also not nationwide.

So, the radical right is trying to chip away at the human rights of LGBT+ people by gutting their legal protections where they exist. By carving out a “religious exemption” to discriminate against LGBT+ people, they will make it legal to deny gay people housing, jobs, and public accommodation of any kind in all 50 states. Which is why this is not, and never has been, about some damn cakes.

The Supreme Court’s decision is really a punt: They’ve ruled on a VERY narrow—and HIGHLY debatable—point and avoided ruling on the anti-discrimination laws themselves. Sooner or later, a cleaner case will come before the Court, and if the make-up of the Court remains the same, the radicals may lose. But if the Court veers to the hard right, LGBT people will lose what little civil rights protections they have—and so much more. As I said on Monday:
All [the radical right needs] for that to happen is for Supreme Court Associate Justice Kennedy to die or retire, or, obviously, any one of the four more liberal justices. Kennedy voted with the majority to enact marriage equality and to overturn state anti-sodomy laws, so replacing him would give the radical rightwing religionists the crucial fifth vote they need to overturn the rulings that they hate the most. If they hold the US Senate after the elections in November, that becomes a very real possibility.
So, while this ruling changed absolutely nothing legally, and even though this particular Court seems unlikely to take away the civil rights protections for LGBT+ people where they exist, in the long run everything could be taken away. We must not allow that to happen.

The only way to safeguard the Court and the human tights of LGBT+ people is to vote Democratic in all elections. Right now, the only way to be sure that the current occupant of the White House will never get to appoint an extremist radical to the Supreme Court, and to protect the human rights of LGBT+ people, is to have the US Senate controlled by Democrats. This isn’t a partisan issue—it’s solely a human rights issue.

I’ll keep warning about this danger until it passes, because that danger remains very real. This particular ruling didn’t change things legally, but that may not last: Nothing has changed YET!

Related:
"The ‘Masterpiece Cakeshop’ Decision Is Not As Harmless as You Think" by Sarah Posner, The Nation – 5 June 2018
"Sorry, Jack Phillips, but it’s still illegal for you to refuse same-sex couples wedding cakes" by Zack Ford, ThinkProgress – 5 June 2018

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