Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled issued its decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, ruling 7-2 in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
As an organization committed to building an inclusive and equal business environment that empowers all communities to prosper and thrive, we are discouraged by a decision that allows any person to be refused service based on whom he or she loves. The unspoken message to LGBT consumers: If you are open and honest about who you are, you may be confronted and turned away. The decision is a small but disheartening step backward on our path to full equality for all.
But, while the Court’s decision is deeply disappointing, its ruling is specific to this case only, based on a concern that members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission may have evidenced an anti-religion bias. The Supreme Court upheld the principle that a public business must serve all members of the public, without discrimination. As Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, ‘The court reversed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people.’
We know other opponents of LGBT equality already are lined up to test that principle before the Supreme Court, and this case is no doubt the first of many to come. In California, the Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits public businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation, as well as race, gender or religion. But earlier this year, the Kern County Superior Court ruled in favor of a Bakersfield bakery owner who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In the Bakersfield case, the judge said the baker’s First Amendment rights to free speech superseded the state law against discrimination, but only because the baker was being asked to create a product that violated her beliefs. In clarifying his decision, Judge David Lampe wrote:
A retail tire shop may not refuse to sell a tire because the owner does not want to sell tires to same sex couples. There is nothing sacred or expressive about a tire. No artist, having placed their work for public sale, may refuse to sell for an unlawful discriminatory purpose. No baker may place their wares in a public display case, open their shop, and then refuse to sell because of race, religion, gender, or gender identification.
While we expect to see lots more cases challenging the equal rights of LGBT people, we continue to believe, to paraphrase the late Dr. Martin Luther King, that the ‘arc of the moral universe’ still ‘bends toward justice.’ We know others will use this recent Supreme Court decision to attempt to justify different forms of discrimination against LGBT people, at other kinds businesses and public venues, but we also know that equality is good for business and good for communities. The collective spending power of LGBT people worldwide is estimated at $3.7 trillion, approximately $900 billion within the U.S. alone. Communities and economies thrive when all individuals and families are protected equally under the law, and the Chamber remains committed to working toward a future in which fairness and equality prevail.
What can you do?
- VOTE! Today (June 5, 2018) is Election Day, and your vote is critically important to the future of our region, state and country! Please vote or drop off your ballot today. Check here for information about voting and ballot drop-off locations: https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/polling-place/
- Report discrimination. If you or someone you know has experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors, the California Attorney General’s office offers a list of resources and responding agencies.
- Participate with RainbowPAC. Rainbow Chamber’s non-partisan political action committee endorses candidates and supports public policy measures that mirror our business-positive values of diversity, inclusion and equality. Visit here for a list of local candidates endorsed by RainbowPAC in 2018.
- Participate in Sacramento Pride! Presented by the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, Sacramento Pride events are scheduled all weekend, beginning with the annual Pride Awards Friday, June 8, honoring Rainbow Chamber Past President Richard Hernandez. Learn more about the history and achievements of the LGBT civil rights movement and next steps at Pride Activated on Saturday, June 9, at Mango’s in Midtown. Then join Rainbow Chamber at the Sacramento Pride Parade/March and Festival on Sunday, June 10, at Capitol Mall.
We are grateful for all the work our member businesses, professionals and allies do every day to make our region and business community better. Thank you!