You may have awoken to news of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds. And, like many of us revving up for Pride Month, this may have been felt like a punch in the gut.
This case has been in the news since 2012, and has served as a symbolic portrait of America’s sticky entanglements with religious freedom. However, while Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was given a narrow ruling of 7-2 in favor of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, this ruling does not explicitly excuse discrimination against LGBTQ+ patrons.
The term “narrow ruling” is not in reference to the clearly decided 7-2 vote. Narrow rulings such as this leave larger constitutional questions without a Supreme Court decision. In fact, within the decision, Justice Kennedy reaffirmed the legal protections already attributed to “gay persons,” and though Justice Sotamayor and Justice Ginsburg dissented with the overall ruling, they wrote that they agreed with the passages explicitly affirming gay rights.
The somewhat complex takeaway here is: this is a ruling that both supports religious freedom and upholds prior legislation made on behalf of gay rights. The ruling focuses far more on how the Colorado Civil Rights Commission used language dismissing Mr. Philipp’s faith than on enforcing a right to discriminate. This is not meant to set a precedent for other LGBTQ+ discrimination cases. Although Mr. Phillips won this particular case, the narrow ruling leaves the possibility that similar cases may be ruled differently.
Of course, some are already misinterpreting this case. Feel free to leave their ranks immediately.
Don Jr. misunderstands the meaning of the word narrow. It was a narrow ruling in that it left open bigger constitutional questions. It’s not describing the 7-2 vote as narrow. https://t.co/x26XhU2vqf
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 4, 2018
While the current administration may want to promote this as the court ruling against LGBTQ+ rights, that is a dangerous falsehood.
This outcome may not feel like a victory in many senses of the word, but it is an indication that the future of LGBTQ+ cases leans forward. As ever, one of the most effective tools to ensure that legislation is being decided in favor of LGBTQ+ persons is to put power to the people. Tomorrow is California’s primary, so there is still time to investigate who will best protect your person and listen to your voice.
Past the primary, visit https://www.glaad.org/ampyourvoice in order to speak out on some of the political issues that matter most to you.