A return to “We don’t serve your kind here”?

In the context of a nation rocked by racial discrimination at levels unseen in decades, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on December 5th in a case that could gut not only state nondiscrimination laws; it could erode the Civil Rights Act. It could turn back the clock to a time when businesses could tell people, “We don’t serve your kind here.”

In 2012, a gay couple was denied service when they attempted to purchase a cake for their wedding reception. The bakery argues that businesses with a “creative” element should be allowed to refuse service to some people in violation of laws against discrimination. Despite the high stakes of the case, it has received relatively little media attention.

In response, a broad coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), civil rights, racial justice and allied organizations have launched Open to All, a national campaign to focus attention on the far-reaching, dangerous risks of the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case.

“If the Supreme Court gives businesses a constitutional right to discriminate, it would have implications that reach far beyond bakeries,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project (MAP). “If the Court carves out a broad exemption in nondiscrimination laws for so-called ‘creative’ enterprises, we could see an explosion of discrimination by restaurants, hair salons, event venues, funeral parlors and more.

“The impact of such a decision wouldn't be limited to LGBT people; it could be used to allow discrimination against people of color, women, minority faiths, people with disabilities and others.”

More about Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission:
Trump administration backs anti-LGBT cake shop
Supreme Court sets date for "wedding shop" hearing
A philosopher argues why no one has the right to refuse service to LGBT People

The Open to All campaign is supported by more than 75 organizations, including MAP, the ACLU, Color of Change, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Anti-Defamation League, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and Freedom for All Americans. A full list of supporting organizations can be found here.

The campaign was launched with a new website and two new ads developed by MAP:

“We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here” illustrates how Masterpiece could lead to a wider array of people—including LGBT people and families of color—facing discrimination while helping other viewers imagine how they would feel if they faced similar discrimination. The ad was produced in partnership with 24 national advocacy groups including civil rights, progressive, LGBT, health, and faith organizations.

“License to Discriminate” depicts ways in which a decision in favor of the bakery, in this case, could be used by those who seek to discriminate against LGBT people and others.  

Recent research shows that small business owners support protecting LGBT people from discrimination. A new poll released in November 2017 by the Small Business Majority shows that 65 percent of small business owners believe businesses should not be permitted to deny goods or services to LGBT people based on an owner’s religious beliefs and 55 percent of small business owners don’t believe that a business owner should be able to claim an exemption to non-discrimination laws if they think serving a customer goes against their right to free artistic expression.

Open to All is nationwide public engagement campaign to build understanding about how our nation’s nondiscrimination laws are under attack. 

Copyright The Gayly 12/1/2017 @ 3:06 p.m. CST