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Supreme Court Sides With Baker, Ignores Civil Rights

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I have no problem with people practicing their religion. In fact, freedom of religion is literally the first thing in the US Constitution. What I do have a problem with is people using their religion to discriminate against people. Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS, sided with a baker in Colorado who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple because his religion does not allow him to acknowledge same-sex marriage.

 

How it started

Same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Masterpiece Cakeshop to design and bake a cake for their upcoming wedding in 2012. However, the owner of the bakery, Jack Phillips refused to bake the cake because baking it would be a violation of his religious beliefs, saying that they can deny service to anyone who intends to purchase baked goods from Masterpiece Cakeshop with the intent that they will be used to celebrate a same-sex wedding.

 

Why this was wrong

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act that “prohibits discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, religion, disability, race, creed, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry.” By refusing to bake the cake for Craig and Mullins, Jack Phillips discriminated against them because of their sexual orientation. Clear-cut, obvious violation of this act, no? The Colorado Civil Rights Commission agrees, as, on May 30, 2014, they found that Masterpiece Cakeshop had committed discrimination against a person based on their sexual orientation which is, as mentioned before, a violation of Colorado law. Victory! Or maybe not…

 

A difference of values

Ever-persistent, Jack Phillips was unhappy with the Commission’s verdict and appealed to Colorado’s Supreme Court in 2015. When his case was denied, he went to the SCOTUS to settle the matter once and for all. I and many others were hoping that the DoJ would side with Craig and Mullins, seeing as how Jack Phillips broke the anti-discrimination law in place in Colorado. However, on September 7, 2017, the Supreme Court stated that Phillips baking a cake for a same-sex wedding infringes on his first amendment right as it goes against his deeply-held religious beliefs. Phillips claimed that Colorado was violating his right to free speech and his right to practice his religion. These claims do not hold water as the SCOTUS found that one’s religious beliefs do not excuse them from “compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that government is free to regulate.” So basically, Phillips’ claim that his first amendment right was being infringed upon is not true and that him using that as an excuse to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple would not normally be considered valid. So why did the SCOTUS reach the verdict that they did?

 

A much deeper issue

It is no secret that over the years, the LGBTQ community has had to fight an uphill battle in this country. LGBTQ people have existed since humans first started to populate the Earth, but only recently have they received the same rights as heterosexuals with the Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2016 that decriminalized same-sex marriage across the United States. However, that was just the first step in fighting the arduous battle for equal rights. In many states, a person can be fired for being gay or transgender and over one hundred anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in 2017. There is a very obvious anti-LGBTQ pattern here, showing that we still have a long way to go to have equal rights. Back to the bakery case, the DoJ claimed the cake baking is a highly expressive act and, as such, is protected under the first amendment. The problem with this logic is that Phillips outwardly refused to bake the cake because of his personal objection to a customer’s identity, which by all accounts is discrimination. It would make sense if Phillips refused to bake a cake that included hateful symbols and/or words because of the moral implications. However, this was not the case. Phillips literally refused service to people because of their unchanging identity. This is analogous to a restaurant owner refusing to serve food to a person of color because the owner has some sort of objection towards any non-white individual. What’s more is that the Supreme Court never held the belief that any for-profit business has the right to discriminate by claiming free speech.

Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, believed that the government should not make businesses associate themselves with certain people. However, this argument was never adopted, but, unfortunately, there is one exception to civil rights law that allows discrimination against same-sex couples because most opposition to same-sex relationships are rooted in deeply held religious or philosophical beliefs. This is how Phillips got away with clearly discriminating against people: homophobia is perfectly acceptable because of someone’s religious beliefs. However, the Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation is “immutable” like race. So, if it is illegal to refuse service to someone based on the color of their skin, why is it acceptable to refuse service to someone based on their sexual orientation? Logically, under the current laws in the US, the government cannot give civil rights protection to one group and deny another group the same rights. Clearly, this is not an issue of religious freedom, but one of deep-seated and long-lasting bigotry and homophobia.

Originally posted 2017-10-05 07:19:44.


Also published on Medium.

Writer, editor, actor, musician. Steve was born in northern New Jersey in 1994. Being raised by accepting parents, he was comfortable enough with his sexuality to come out at twelve. Steven writes about the struggles and accomplishments of the LGBTQ community and his goal through writing is to educate people on the plights and achievements of the LGBTQ people.

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Tell It Like A Lesbian

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My mother refuses to refer to my partner as anything other than a friend. We’ve been dating for three years and my mother still won’t acknowledge our relationship. Am I crazy for being angry about this and wanting to confront her? I feel insulted and it really upsets my partner. –Clarke

Dear Clarke, You’re not crazy for being upset at your mother. It sounds like you have every right to be angry, especially if after three years your mother can’t even acknowledge your relationship. If talking to her gently about it hasn’t worked after all this time, it may indeed be time to confront her more forcefully, as your partner’s feelings are also being hurt by this behavior. If you decide to confront her and her attitude remains unchanged, it may be time to cut ties. After all, your happiness is what matters most in this situation, regardless of whatever is causing such denial from your mother. You must put the health of you and your partner’s relationship first, and eventually, your mother may come to realize what she is losing because of her denial.

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Dear Tell It, Do you have any suggestions for handling depression? I’ve been really struggling with loneliness and I have no energy for anything, even stuff I usually enjoy. I feel like I have no one to turn to. –Otto

Dear Otto, Depression often causes the loneliness and sense of isolation that you are feeling. It’s important that you recognize this as a symptom of your depression and do your best not to isolate yourself as a result. Because depression can take a lot of energy, remember that your brain and body need time to recover. And remember that focusing on self-care is not selfish. Depression is an illness just like the flu and other diseases and should be treated with the same care.

On bad days, make a warm drink that you enjoy, read your favorite book or watch a show or movie you love. Spend some time by yourself to recharge, and then contact a friend or family member to let them know what you’ve been feeling. Make a plan to spend time with them, even if it’s only for an hour or two, preferably away from your house. Getting outside and into a new environment is an excellent way of resetting your brain. While I wish I could tell you otherwise, depression doesn’t just go away. You will likely go through phases of good and bad, and it’s important to learn the symptoms that are specific to you. If you have suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to ask for help. The suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. Hang in there, and remember that there are people who care.

__________

Have questions for Tell It Like A Lesbian? Let me answer them! Submit your questions below (you don’t have to use your real name unless you want to), and see your question answered on our website!

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Originally posted 2017-10-26 14:10:06.


Also published on Medium.

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In December, This Round-The-World Cruise Visits 35 Countries

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Imagine being able to visit 66 ports in 35 countries over 141 days.  Such a trip has never been offered in the past, but now Viking Cruises, based in Los Angeles, is planning one.  

The Viking Sun will set sail on 15 December 2017. Furthermore, Cruise Critic has named Viking Cruises as one of the top 10 cruise lines for gay and lesbian travelers because it frequently partners with LGBT travel agencies and past travelers have reported good experiences.  In fact, the 2017 CRUIZIE Awards for LGBT Cruise Travel awarded Viking River Cruises the ‘Best River Cruise Line for LGBTQ Passengers.’  

So what is this journey going to look like?  Let’s have a look:  

Day 1: Depart From Miami

Miami

On 15 December 2017, the Viking Sun will leave Miami, the international city in Florida.  If you are embarking on this trip and are here in Miami, appreciate the barrier islands and Miami beach.  Here, find colorful buildings, surfside hotels and white sand.  If this sounds good, then spend a few days here, before making your way to the Viking Sun. 

Days 2 to 20: The Caribbean, Central America and Los Angeles

The Caribbean

On day 2, cruise the Caribbean Sea,  which covers an area of approximately 1,063,000 square miles. The deepest area in this sea is the Cayman Trench between Cuba and Jamaica.  Between day 3 and day 5, explore the city of Cienfuegos in Cuba, where a walking tour is offered.  This traveler explored gorgeous flamingoes, boat houses and more attractions.  

Between days 6 to 17, visit other countries lying in the Caribbean and South and Central America: Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Then briefly visit  Mexico and Los Angeles, before cruising the Pacific Ocean.   

Days 30 to 43: French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji

Nuka Hiva, the largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia

French Polynesia, an overseas French possession, consists of more than 100 stunning islands, stretching across more than 2,000 kilometers. Start cruising the South Pacific and visit Taiohae, the main town of Nuka Hiva (pictured above) in French Polynesia.  You will also visit Tahiti and Bora Bora, known for its scuba diving.  

The 15 gorgeous islands that make up the Cook Islands could provide a hint of paradise.  Warm tropical waters, crystal clear waters and aquatic life are just a few of the treasures that can be found here. Then in Tonga, discover white beaches, coral reefs and tropical rainforest.  Continue this tropical holiday in Fiji, which also has beaches and coral reefs.  

Days 44 to 113: New Zealand, Australia and Asia

New Zealand

In New Zealand, go on an extensive tour that includes the Bay of Islands, an enclave of more than 140 islands with beaches and water activities. Find an abundance of wildlife, including penguins, dolphins, marlin, whales, and gannets.  There’s even a camping ground here.

Go on to cruise the Tasman Sea, and discover several attractions in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef, located in northeastern Australia, consists of golden beaches, thousands of reefs, and hundreds of Islands with dolphins, sharks, and colorful fish.     

Then cruise the Timor Sea and start exploring the culture and beauty of Asia. See Indonesia, and then go on to visit Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Hong Kong , Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and India.  During this journey explore Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, which has beautiful islands topped with rainforests.  

Days 114 to 131: The Middle East, North Africa and the Central Mediterranean

Malta in the Central Mediterranean

Cruise across the Arabian Sea, and tour several countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Oman, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia. There is also a stop at Malta, located in the Central Mediterranean.  See wildflowers, plants, prehistoric sites, and walk to discover Malta’s natural beauty.  

Days 132 to 141: Europe

Murcia (Cartagena), Spain

See Portugal, England, and explore the beaches and hiking trails of Sardinia, the Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. In Spain, Murcia is a university city with beaches, water sports, wine, and historical sites.    

Want to explore these countries, and Interested in this cruise? Call Viking at 888-850-6260 or find out more here.

Originally posted 2017-10-26 14:08:07.

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Same-Sex Marriage in the US: A Decade of Change

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On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court announced the decision to make same-sex marriage a right in all 50 states. People all over the country celebrated, pride flags were flown, and for the first time, the White House was lit with rainbow lights. The decision was a landmark victory for the gay-rights movement, but behind it all was decades of litigation, activism, and advocacy.

In 1996, a law called the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It defined marriage as “the union of one man and one woman” in the United States constitution. Individual states were able to recognize same-sex unions, but on a federal level, the words wife, husband, and spouse, were reserved specifically for heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples were also denied social security survivor’s benefits and were unable to jointly file taxes. For almost a decade, the DOMA remained.

After 40 years of being together, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer traveled to Toronto to get legally married in 2007. A year later, their union was officially recognized by their home state of New York . In 2009, Spyer passed away at the age of 77. She left her entire estate to her wife, Windsor. Because of DOMA, the federal government did not recognize their union as a marriage and Windsor was required to pay over $300,000 in taxes on her inheritance. Windsor decided to challenge this because she was legally married and should have therefore qualified for an unlimited tax deduction on the inherited estate. After approaching several gay-rights advocacy groups, she was repeatedly denied and was unable to find representation.

Finally, Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP agreed to take on the case. In 2010, her case was filed and made its way through the circuits and in 2013 it had reached the United States Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in favor of Windsor and announced that DOMA had been unconstitutional. By the same margin, the Supreme Court would legalize same-sex marriage three years later.

In September of 2017, Windsor passed away at the age of 88. She left behind a legacy of activism and change, and hope. At her funeral, Hillary Rodham read a eulogy. “Because of her, people came out, marched in their first pride parade, married the love of their life. Thank you, Edie,” reported the New York Daily News.“Thank you for being a beacon of hope, for proving that love is more powerful than hate.”

Edith Windsor has helped to change the lives of thousands of LGBTQ couples and her legacy will continue to live on. Do you have a story of how legalizing same-sex marriage changed your life? Tell us in the comments!

Originally posted 2017-10-25 13:58:13.

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