In case you missed the news, the Supreme Court sided with the Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. In a 7-2 ruling, the Court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated animus towards the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds.
But the ruling was limited to this specific instance and did not extend beyond the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s activity in this case. Or, in other words, they didn’t establish any sweeping new principles we must now all abide by. It was a limited victory for those religious conservatives who pin their Christianity on denying services to gay people and a limited defeat for gay couples who want wedding cakes. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking a step back and recognizing just how fragile the civil rights and liberties we hold dear really are.
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane registered his frustration on Twitter with a post comparing the ruling to Jim Crow laws in the United States:
Some on Twitter thought McFarlane’s post was hyperbolic given how limited the decision was:
A solid Supreme Court consensus that declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding is not, in fact, comparable to the Holocaust pic.twitter.com/4VN9sn6oHB— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) June 4, 2018
But his point wasn’t that refusing to bake cakes is on par with genocide, just that it represents a small (but familiar) step along the path towards the dehumanization that’s necessary for such a horrific outcome.
Moreover MacFarlane is correct that other rights, including religious freedom, are often asserted in an effort to limit the rights of others. White Evangelical Christians opposed segregation on religious grounds, with private Bob Jones University refused to admit African-Americans until 1971 and forbid students from interracial dating, preferring instead to pay a fine for its racist policy. The university later apologized for its backward rules.
We’re also in the midst of an alarming resurgence in institutionalized racist policies with ICE and Customs and Border Protection going rogue, Trump’s Muslim ban, Republicans suppressing African-American votes, and GOP drug testing policies for public assistance recipients being targeted at urban areas but not rural areas in some states, etc. Bigotry is still a problem and one that can’t be swept away by a Supreme Court decision, that’s why it’s up to us to continue to offer full-throated objection to any policy that seeks to discriminate based on race and now, thankfully, sexual orientation.
h/t: Huffington Post