|Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop|
As our Australian parliament is passing a consensus marriage equality bill that will have no amendments for "religious freedom" exemptions, a case in the US where a cake shop owner who refused to serve gays is continuing to unfold. Thankfully such cases won't come to fruition in Australia after marriage equality passes as current anti-discrimination law won't be overrode/unraveled because of so call religious exemptions.
However the US appears to be in an ongoing culture war fought out in the courts between those who say all commercial businesses should not refuse service to people because of whatever, and the US religious freedom advocates who say they should be able to refuse service to certain people that their religion doesn't agree with.
This isn't a new thing over there. In the 1960's religious objectors were using the exact same arguments to justify not serving black people. As now it was fought out in the courts. Today it's the LGBT where these same issues are being revisited, the gays being the new targets in an effort to wind back discrimination laws.
This is exactly what the far right of the gov was trying to do here with the marriage equality bill before parliament now. They wanted a federal law to override state based anti-discrimination law already in place, so that LGBT could be refused service by commercial businesses for no other reason than that they are gay. They wanted discrimination against us put into law.
This article goes to the core of the religious freedom argument and shows it for what it is; absurd. The cake shop involved in the US case is called Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple for no other reason than that they were gay, citing their religious beliefs as giving them the right to do so.
In short, Masterpiece does not just seek a license to discriminate; it seeks a license to discriminate enshrined in and protected by law.
Masterpiece’s religious owner and his conservative allies don’t want to be the exceptions. They want to be the rule, like Jim Crow was the rule in the South. They seek a legal regime in which anyone can opt out of any law in the name of religion. They seek a world in which laws apply to other people, not them. They seek a world in which no one tells them what to do.
These arguments are simultaneously rooted in history and unique to our political moment. How can that be?
It is hard to read the arguments coming from Masterpiece and its conservative allies — “My religion tells me that homosexuality is wrong and I shouldn’t have to endorse or participate in something I find morally abhorrent,” for example — and not think about Jim Crow South. In 1964 and 1965, black Americans at the vanguard of the civil rights movement drove in to drive-in restaurants, sat at lunch counters, and walked into motels only to be turned away because they were black. Those establishments, by law, only served whites. In every single public accommodations case of the era, white business owners argued that their religious beliefs conflicted with the prospect of integrating the races: “My religion tells me that black persons should not be mixing with white folks and I shouldn’t have to endorse or participate in something I find morally abhorrent.”
Black patrons won their cases over the next 5 years, as various public accommodations cases made their way through the federal courts. The Supreme Court addressed this religion argument directly, calling the religious pretext to discriminate “patently frivolous.”
How is it possible, then, that we find ourselves back at the Supreme Court litigating the same question? Towleroad