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Sweet Land of Liberty


The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple for their wedding. Though the ruling is fairly limited, our society -- being what it is -- will not pay attention to the nuance, and therefore sides will be drawn, celebrations and angry reactions alike will be had, and our culture war will continue to be stoked. I think I understand the majority ruling, but I do not agree with it.

Back in December, former blogger Andrew Sullivan (himself a longtime gay rights activist, though also an admitted conservative) wrote a piece wherein he thought that the Colorado gay couple had gone too far in suing the baker, and that they (and by extension LGBT people) should just "live and let live." In other words, it was a 'pick your battles' argument. I thought about this particular train of thought for quite awhile, but, in the end, decided it is wrong.

I've read a lot surrounding this case about the religious freedom of business owners, yet haven't heard nearly as much about the freedom and civil rights of potential patrons of establishments that are open to the public. At most, we've been treated to the refrain of: shop elsewhere, the line of thought being that if enough of our dollars float away from businesses who discriminate against who they serve, then perhaps those establishments will close. The old 'vote with your dollars' routine.

Fortunately, we live in a constitutional republic. We are not -- or at least should not be -- subject solely to the whims of unfettered capitalism. In a country that claims to view everyone equally, situations of unequal treatment should not be accepted. If I, a gay man, walk into restaurant holding hands with my partner, and we are with three of our straight friends, it should not be legal for the owner of the restaurant to allow our friends inside, but deny service to us because of some sort of religious conviction of intolerance.

This isn't Star Wars, and my partner and I are not droids.

Indeed, by the time 1977 rolled around and C-390 and R2D2 were turned away from the Mos Eisley cantina, such "we don't serve your kind" attitudes were, legally, prohibited in our country. It is therefore disheartening (among other things) that were are again having this debate. Nor should we think of  'religious freedom' as some sort of new reasoning for discrimination. Religion was used as justification for slavery, for segregation and, yes, the refusal to serve certain customers. Sadly, none of this is new.

Earlier I mentioned how I understood SCOTUS' decision, but that I did not agree with it. They were ruling on a narrow margin of how the baker was treated by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. I get it. They were laser-focusing on the particular issue of equal treatment, that the baker was supposedly treated unfairly by the commission. That is why I disagree with the ruling, because if that isn't irony, then I don't know what is.


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