The U.S. Supreme Court recently rendered its verdict in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The High Court ruled, by a vote of 7-2, in favor of the plaintiff, Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, who was charged with violating anti-discrimination laws when he refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding reception.
Briefly, here are the facts in the case, taken mainly from the decision against Phillips by the Colorado Court of Appeals.
In 2012, a homosexual couple visited Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for their wedding reception. Although they were going to be married in Massachusetts (same-sex marriage was not yet legal in Colorado), they wanted a cake for a reception in Colorado. Because Phillips is a Christian who believes that marriage is the union of one man and woman, he declined to make said requested cake and advised the couple that he would be happy to make and sell them any other baked goods. The unhappy couple then filed charges of discrimination with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). Then they filed a formal complaint with the Office of Administrative Courts, alleging that Masterpiece had discriminated against them in a place of public accommodation because of their sexual orientation. An administrative-law judge found in favor of the couple, which finding was affirmed by the Commission. The decision was appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which affirmed the Commission’s decision in 2015. A petition for a writ of certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, and was granted in 2017. The case was argued on December 5, 2017, and on June 4, 2018, the Court announced the reversal of the Colorado court’s decision.
The Court’s decision does not mean that all acts of discrimination are now legal in the United States. Not even close.
As pointed by Elizabeth Clark — associate director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University’s law school — supporters of Jack Phillips and the same-sex couple both lost:
On the one hand, the Supreme Court refused to grant unqualified protection to those who conscientiously object to providing goods and services to same-sex couples, and at the same time the court shut down efforts to assert that all forms of discrimination affecting same-sex couples should be labeled mere bigotry. The court pushed for a more pluralist approach, noting both that “gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,” and that “[a]t the same time, the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”
Although Phillips won the case,
The Supreme Court’s decision was certainly not a complete win for those seeking religious exemptions to celebrating same-sex marriages. There is no clearly delineated protection for future bakers, florists or photographers who feel that providing cakes, flowers and photography for same-sex weddings would violate their religious principles.
As a legal matter, at least as regards bakers, florists, photographers and their ilk, the decision will have marginal precedential value. Not only did the court duck the most common issues in these cases, but the laws governing LGBTQ discrimination in the marketplace and religious freedom are varied and state-specific.
Almost to a man, the Left — Democrats, liberals, and progressives — was aghast that Jack Phillips would dare to discriminate against and refuse to serve a same-sex couple. The Left fully supports all anti-discrimination laws, civil rights commissions, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and federal intervention in discrimination cases.
But not always.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders went out for dinner with her family on a Friday in June at the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. Or at least she tried to. A server took the group’s order and then the restaurant staff called the owner and told her who was in the restaurant. According to the restaurant’s owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, she “drove over herself to confirm the news.” After confirming Sanders’s identity, “She asked her staff if she should ask Sanders to leave.” When they agreed, “Wilkinson requested that Sanders join her on the restaurant’s patio.” When asked to leave, Sanders responded, “That’s fine. I’ll go,” and even offered to pay for what had already been eaten.
The next day, the server, in a now-deleted Facebook post, said, “I just served Sarah huckabee sanders for a total of 2 minutes before my owner kicked her out along with 7 of her other family members.” Sanders confirmed the incident when she tweeted, “I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”
Leftists generally cheered the actions of the restaurant’s owner — even though they involved discrimination and refusal of service. One comment posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page is typical: “I appreciate how you decided to take a moral standing against an administration that is essentially emulating Nazi Germany (locking up children, letting white supremacists march freely in the streets, etc).”
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) went so far as to say, “For these members of his cabinet who remain and try to defend him they’re not going to be able to go to a restaurant, they’re not going to be able to stop at a gas station, they’re not going to be able to shop at a department store, the people are going to turn on them, they’re going to protest, they’re going to absolutely harass them.”
Refusing to serve Sanders violates the “public accommodation” law that Leftists have always revered. According to 42 U.S. Code § 2000a, “Prohibition against discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation,” “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” “Place of public accommodation” includes “any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment; or any gasoline station.”
Under this law, business owners do have a right to deny service to patrons who are improperly dressed, drunk, abusive, or disruptive, but they do not have the right to deny service to patrons on the basis of personal characteristics such as race, sex, color, age, national origin, or disability, or opinions such as political affiliation, religious beliefs, philosophy, or sexual orientation — and certainly not because of where someone is employed.
Leftists are hypocrites when it comes to discrimination. If someone was refused service at a restaurant, gas station, or department store and asked to leave because he was black, Jewish, disabled, or gay, then Leftists would be screaming for federal intervention, lawsuits, fines, and cease and desist orders — not to mention calling for boycotts, protests, and social media attacks.
The Sanders incident was a great teaching moment for right-wingers. But as usual, they blew the opportunity.
Donald Trump tweeted after the incident, “The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.”
That may be true, but it misses the real issue.
Anti-discrimination and public accommodations laws are an illegitimate function of government and an unconstitutional expansion of federal power that destroys the rights of private property, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, free enterprise, and freedom of contract.
In a free society, there is no right to service. Discriminating against someone is not aggressing against him. To outlaw discrimination is to outlaw freedom of thought. This means that any restaurant, gas station, or department store should have the right to discriminate against, refuse to serve, and ask to leave any person on any basis and for any reason.