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     Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cake Shops in Lakewood, Colorado, has won the right to appeal before the United States Supreme Court lower court rulings that he discriminated against David Mullins and Charlie Craig when he refused to create a cake for the couple’s wedding.  Mr. Phillips indicated that his morals prohibit creating cakes that celebrate things contrary to his religious beliefs. (Mr Phillips cited his refusal to create Halloween, racist or atheistic themed cakes as other examples where his faith prohibited him from selling his wares on previous occasions.)

     The world is full of blatant discrimination where one party is being denied equal rights by another. It was a scant two years ago that SCOTUS made same sex marriage legal throughout the country in Obergefell v Hodges. It wasn’t until 1967 that SCOTUS deemed preposterous the laughable idea that “race mixing” should be illegal and laws preventing miscegenation were overturned with Loving v Virginia. The 1965 Voting Rights Act made racial discrimination in voting illegal in the USA. Jumping back nearly a century the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution “gave” women the right to vote and of course the 13th Amendment made slavery illegal.

     Of course, not all disputes over equal rights have clearly designated perpetrators and victims. Roe v Wade found a woman’s right to abortion virtually inviolate while ignoring the obvious fact that a late term fetus within a womb is also a human being worthy of protection under the law. Denial of equality, of equal legal protection, of religious freedom and the right to be served in a public enterprise regardless of the color of one’s skin or beliefs are areas where the rights of one party can conflict with the rights of another. So it is with Jack Phillips and Misters Mullins and Craig. Both parties have rights and granting a right to one intrinsically denies rights to the other. Conflicts like these might best be adjudicated by someone with the wisdom of Solomon but instead is slated to be decided by The US Supreme Court.

     And what they decide matters for all of us.

    If we strip the case of the left v right, liberal v conservative trappings then what we are left with is whether a business has the right to refuse service to anyone. (When requests for services are within the confines of the law, of course.) If one believes that Mullins and Craig have every right to be served as theirs is a legal union then do Nazi Skinheads have the right to demand that a print shop produces racist propaganda for them? Should County Clerks be able to deny marriage licenses to same sex or “mixed race” couples? Or should firms owned by Jews be forced to produce anti-Semitic blather? (I am not comparing the morality of same sex couples uniting in wedlock to hooligans bent on disseminating racist lies. As a staunch believer in marriage equality  I hope that this act of “Religious Freedom” on the part of Mr. Phillips will soon sound as absurd and idiotic as arguments concerning what a “mistake” the 19th Amendment was.)

     I am both interested in and torn concerning how far  the law will force people to do things that violate their religious or moral principles and to what extent we will allow those religious beliefs to enable blatant discrimination against customers. “Denial of Service” is an awfully slippery slope that could include fair housing laws, fair lending laws and the rights of all Americans to be served with dignity. Laws have consequences and whatever decision SCOTUS comes to regarding Colorado’s anti-discrimination law and Mr. Phillips’ interpretation of his right to discriminate against others vis a vis the First Amendment and his religious convictions it is indisputable that a ruling concerning Phillips’ case will grant greater protection for some at the expense of others. Come autumn we’ll see how things fall out when SCOTUS has the last word in deciding whose ox it is that gets gored in the fight for equality and freedom.

 

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