Editorial: Could Supreme Court LGBT Ruling Impact Christian Right Voting?

Donald Trump, darling of the Christian Right, was elected in large part because he promised them that every day would be Christmas for their political and religious agendas. In return, the Christian Right has been willing to overlook, excuse, and rationalize virtually all of who Donald Trump is, as they have kept their eyes on that prize. But this week, evangelicals had a disappointing and ironic surprise when two of “their” appointed judges sided with the four liberal judges in a 6-3 ruling to protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to advance the Christian Right platforms opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and LGBTQ rights and protections. And whether Trump actually said as much, he had them convinced that he would “make America great again” largely by making America an evangelical Christian theocracy. He promised the fulfillment of their wishes in large part by his vow to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death with a conservative justice who would protect their values.

Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016. In the election exit poll, 21 percent of all voters considered Supreme Court appointments to be the most important factor in how they voted. Of those, 56 percent voted for Trump. They wanted conservative judges whom they could count on to make judgments that protected their values, and they put their trust in Trump and the Republicans to appoint the right judges. Trump kept his promise to appoint a Supreme Court justice who they felt had their backs when he appointed Neil M. Gorsuch to replace Scalia.

On Monday, however, Justice Gorsuch, along with Chief Justice John Roberts, sided with the liberal justices in their ruling that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. It was Justice Gorsuch, in fact, who wrote the majority opinion.

“Today,” Gorsuch said, “we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear.”

The ruling is a victory for the LGBTQ community. Some (though not the religious right) would see it as a hopeful sign on another front, as well: It was a loss for the Trump administration, who had sided with the employers in three cases involving members of the LGBTQ community who had lost their jobs. Consequently, no longer can Trump and the religious right take for granted that all conservative SCOTUS justices are in their pocket and will automatically take the side of the religious right, just because it is the side of the religious right.

As Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen writes, “Now that Gorsuch has proved himself untrustworthy in their eyes, they would be right to question whether Republican assurances meant anything at all.”

The Christian Right’s previous defenses of Trump, even when they have found him otherwise repugnant, have always been based on the fact that his various legislative actions favored them, and more importantly, he got them their judges. Now, however, they’ve discovered that even some conservative judges may disappoint them by basing decisions on legal merits rather than on making Trump supporters happy. What will this mean in the 2020 election for those conservatives and swing voters who voted for Trump on the basis of SCOTUS picks Christian Right-slanted legislation?

Why Supreme Court’s LGBTQ employment discrimination ruling marks a ‘milestone’ | PBS NewsHour  [2020-06-15]

Why evangelical Christians still support President Trump despite controversies | CBS News  [2018-03-28]

What Does the “Same-Sex Wedding Cake Decision” Mean?

How will the Supreme Court’s recent “same-sex wedding cake” decision impact businesses and their potential clients in the future? Some see the ruling as a restrictive blow to the LGBTQ community, while others see it as a victory for the freedoms of expression and religion. In reality, this particular judgment in favor of the baker who refused to create a same-sex wedding cake for a gay couple probably changes very little for either side.

In 2012, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, a same-sex couple, asked Masterpiece Cakeshop of Colorado to create a wedding cake for them. The bakery’s owner, Jack Phillips, refused, saying that it would violate his religious beliefs to support or take part in a same-sex wedding.

Mullins and Craig made a complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The Commission ruled that Phillips and his bakery were in violation of Colorado law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Colorado State Supreme Court upheld the Commission’s decision.

Following the ruling, Jack Phillips appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Phillips argued that being required to use his artistic talent in support of same-sex marriage violated his First Amendment right to free speech. Phillips also argued that, because of his religious beliefs, requiring him to participate in the celebration of a same-sex wedding was a violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

In a decision that surprised many, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop. But the court’s judgment should not cause us to make assumptions about what could happen in the future if another business, such as a bakery, refuses services to a gay couple, such as, say, making a same-sex wedding cake.

Do businesses now have the right to refuse gay clientele?

Following news of the same-sex wedding cake ruling by the Supreme Court, social media lit up with photos of businesses displaying signs that declared “gays not welcome” and similar sentiments. Those who oppose not only same-sex marriage, but also the LGBTQ community, felt justified and safe to proclaim their bigotry out loud.

But the Supreme Court ruling does not grant businesses the right to refuse gay clientele, and it doesn’t grant them the right to refuse to bake a same-sex wedding cake. The Supreme Court made it clear that its ruling was not to decide the question of whether people have the general right to refuse to serve LGBTQ customers based on religious objections.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the Supreme Court’s decision, stated “Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,” saying further that “religious protections do not generally extend to business owners refusing to provide equal access to goods and services.”

Why did the Supreme Court rule the way it did?

Though Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop were found by the Colorado State Supreme Court to be in violation of state laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the U.S. Supreme Court examined the case from a different angle. It found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had handled the case unconstitutionally, in an unfair and biased manner hostile to religion. Remarks from at least one commissioner showed an inability by the commission to honor Phillip’s constitutional right to a fair and neutral hearing.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop did not clearly address either of Phillips’ arguments that his freedoms of speech and religion would be violated if he were ordered to create a same-sex wedding cake. Consequently, similar cases in the future will need to be decided apart from the ruling made here.

Why does the ACLU consider this a victory, of sorts?

Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said, “The Court reversed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case, but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people. The Court today reaffirmed the core principle that businesses open to the public must be open to all.”

The recent “same-sex wedding cake” ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t provide guidance as to whether artistic expression in the form of food creation is considered free expression. Neither does it advise whether it is a violation of freedom of religion to require a baker to make a same-sex wedding cake when it goes against his or her religious convictions. But it also does not provide any legal ammunition for those business owners who would mistake the ruling for permission to discriminate or refuse services based on sexual orientation. The next bakery owner who refuses to bake a same-sex wedding cake under similar circumstances is likely to find himself or herself in a similar legal position, which will be judged separately from this case.

What You Should Know About The Supreme Court’s Wedding Cake Decision (HBO) | VICE News [2018-06-05]

U.S. Supreme Court sides with baker in same-sex wedding cake case |
Atlanta Journal-Constitution [2018-06-04]