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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.


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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8 Homophobic Brands to Avoid

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Here at TravelPRIDE, our goal is total inclusivity and acceptance. Bigotry of all kinds is all too common, and we like to promote a message of love as much as possible. If you’re looking to do the same, knowing where not to spend your money is a great place to start. There are plenty of gay-friendly companies, but there are also plenty of homophobic ones. Boycotting these companies (not giving them your support/money) is the perfect start to ending hate.

Chick-fil-A

Plenty of LGBTQ people already avoid Chick-fil-A already (partly because the food is not great, but that’s my opinion) because of company president Dan Cathy’s open homophobia. According to Huffington Post, a report was published saying that as of 2010 the company had donated almost $2 million to anti-gay groups across the country. So if you want a chicken sandwich, I suggest going somewhere that’s open on Sundays.

Urban Outfitters

People are getting whiplash from Urban Outfitters’ stance on marriage equality. With a conservative chairman and recent push back for pulling a pro-gay-marriage shirt from its shelves, Urban Outfitters reportedly, according to an article from SFist, “donates 100 percent of its ‘Marriage Equality’ t-shirt sales to EQCA and NCLR,” which are two group leading the charge against the recent Supreme Court challenge on legalizing same-sex marriage.

With its history of flip-flopping on the gay marriage issue, it’s best to stay aware of Urban Outfitters’ current stance. They seem to be supportive now, but this could change as homophobia remains present across the United States.

Barilla

My little gay heart has been overjoyed at seeing gay couples featured in various advertisements. But according to Barilla’s chairman, you’ll never see this from the pasta company. In an interview with LGBTQNation, he went even further in his attack on the LGBTQ community, saying “I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose.”

So much for gaining more customers, Barilla. I think I’ll be buying generic from now on.

Exxon

This one will have you taking the bus to work from now on. With a history of eliminating domestic-partner benefits for same sex couples, according to an article on Queerty, you might want to reconsider that gas-guzzling car as your go-to mode of transportation. Taking the bus will not only take money away from big oil’s profits and homophobic practices, you’ll help the environment too.

Salvation Army (according to the same article from Queerty)

Between Salvation Army’s open homophobia and Goodwill’s exploitation of differently-abled employees, as revealed by Huffington Post, I’m at a loss as to where to donate my stuff. That being said, knowing that Salvation Army actively fights pro-gay-marriage legislation, I think I’ll be holding a lot more garage sales in the future, and you should too if you’re part of the LGBTQ community.

Purina

On the same Huffington Post list as Exxon and Salvation army, the Fancy Feast company refuses to provide benefits to same-sex couples. While they haven’t confessed anything more openly homophobic than this, partner benefits are still a huge deal and spending your dollars on other pet food brands might be a wise choice.

Boy Scouts of America

Surprise, surprise. A male-dominated group not supporting same-sex couples? Astonishing. This isn’t a company, per se, but the BSA relies on donations, and you can decide to support a better, more gay-friendly organization. While the Boy Scouts do allow openly gay males to join, it’s still taboo to be an openly-gay leader. It’s progress, but not nearly enough. If I were you, I’d donate to a worthier cause, such as the Girl Scouts of the USA, a group that is openly pro-gay and pro-choice

Cracker Barrell

While not at all shocking that a southern-themed restaurant wouldn’t support the LGBTQ community, it’s not exactly funny. In another Huffington Post article, it was reported that “In 1991, 11 employees were fired for not displaying ‘normal heterosexual values,’ as was prescribed by an intra-company memo.” The same article reports the company has been known to segregate its customers in restaurants. So add racism into the mix, and you get a company not looking good for any minority. So if you’re craving grits and biscuits, I’d recommend finding your favorite southern dishes elsewhere.

I think we all know that this list is far from complete. It would take weeks or maybe months to find and list every single company with anti-gay practices. If you want to help out your fellow readers, let us know in the comments what other companies you boycott because of their homophobic policies. We’d love your participation in adding to this list, so we can continue to fight hate wherever it appears.

Originally posted 2017-09-05 13:55:21.


Also published on Medium.

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Collaboration With Travel Bloggers Sarah and Rachel

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Travel bloggers, Sarah and Rachel, share their experience in Aruba:

We sat down on our couch in the middle of December not expecting to purchase plane tickets that evening. Upon scrolling through social media, my girlfriend Sarah found a flight deal from Chicago to Aruba (yes, the Caribbean island of Aruba) for only $250 round trip. If you do any traveling at all (ESPECIALLY to islands) you know that it’s really expensive to fly there and flying for a little more than $100 each way is amazing. We discussed it with our best friend, Callan, and ultimately decided to take the plunge, dip into our travel funds, and go for it. Thus…one of our favorite trips ever happened.

Aruba wasn’t ever a place we specifically sought out to go travel to. Perhaps sometime on a cruise we would stop by it, but we didn’t anticipate starting of 2017 sipping Heineken (Aruba is Dutch, so of course we had to have Heineken) on their beautiful white sand beaches. We had the typical week of touristy attractions, shopping, getting sunburnt, and laughing at us trying to drive in our TINY car (that also broke down in the middle of the national park – that was fun) through the winding streets in Aruba. They don’t have the same traffic laws in America and most of the time it’s a free-for-all. Pro-Tip: Parking is sometimes really picky on this island, so watch out for any signage!

Much of the trip was spent relaxing and if I had to tell you the last time we truly relaxed and didn’t have a worry on our mind, it was that trip. There’s something so peaceful about the ocean and being “stuck” on an island is a good way to ensure you have nothing else on your mind.

As mentioned before we explored Arikok National Park, where we ran over a rattlesnake with our car, saw the caves that have been there for ages, and saw the prettiest beach we’ve ever laid our eyes on. Since the island of Aruba is incredibly close to the coast of Venezuela, there’s a lot of history throughout the parks and beaches. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get the chance to see the flamingos on Flamingo Beach. We had to skip this, since it’s a private beach and you must buy day passes/stay at the local hotel for the chance to see them. There’s always next time, right?

Fort Lauderdale, Florida was the beginning and end of our island getaway. We loved exploring the little beach town and we enjoyed the best Caesars salad we’ve ever had in a small beach hut right by the ocean. Even if you can’t go all the way down to Aruba, Florida is packed with small beach towns that will steal your heart.

After our week long vacation, we finally landed back home in Chicago. Pro tip: don’t forget to put your car keys in a place where you’ll remember after being away. We had to open 3 of our huge suitcases in the middle of baggage claim to find them. *cringe*

Originally posted 2017-09-05 12:28:27.


Also published on Medium.

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Liberal Leader Takes a Stand Against Discrimination

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Disclaimer: I was not raised with any religious affiliation so I may be unintentionally offensive. I mean no offense to anyone who may be religious!

At this point, most of us are aware of the fact that people can’t help being born with a same-sex attraction. However, there are a select few who believe that being in the LGBTQ  spectrum is inherently and morally wrong and that having a same-sex attraction can be cured. Within this select few, there are some who believe that it is fine to discriminate against LGBTQ people because they do not fit their misguided religious narrative.  

“A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation”.

In both the US and Australia, the concept of religious freedom sounds good in theory. What’s wrong with practicing one’s religion? At base level, this does not harm anyone. There are people, though, who abuse this right and claim that discriminating against LGBTQ people is justified because LGBTQ people do not align with religion (although there are religious gay people…) An example of this is Texas’ proposed Senate Bill 522, which would allow county clerks to deny marriage licenses to LGBTQ people because same-sex marriage may go against the clerks’ religious beliefs. This is clearly a problem as LGBTQ people deserve the same rights as everyone else.

Luckily, people are fighting against this antiquated belief system and realizing that change is an inevitable part of life and it is better to be on the moral side of change. One such person is Nick Greiner, federal president of Australia’s Liberal party. Greiner urges both liberals and conservatives to support same-sex marriage as he believes that “great institutions evolve all the time.” This statement can be proven true by looking back in history, whether it be the advancement of LGBTQ rights or the ratification of the 19th Amendment. I am hopeful that Australia will soon achieve marriage equality but, of course, there are objections.

As an American, I can say that this is true and that the above video holds no merit, as since same-sex marriage became legal in the US, being gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans has not become “widespread and compulsory.”

This campaign was aimed at the Australian population to dissuade citizens from voting yes on marriage equality as the people in this video claims that it will damage religious freedom. This, of course, is not true as the United States achieved marriage equality and did not damage anyone’s right to religious freedom. In the words of Nick Greiner, “Any case for enhancing protection for religious freedom exists today and is not dependent on a change to marriage laws.” He also realizes that no negative consequences arose from the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage.

“The experience in these countries has been that no one has become more gay, or less married, and the achievement of the reform has been a unifying moment for people across the political spectrum.” -Nick Greiner

Greiner also recognizes that in heavily religious countries like Spain, same-sex marriage has not taken away anyone’s freedom of religion. The argument that it does is inane because it is simply not true. The legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia will not take away anyone’s right to practice their religion, nor will it create an increase of LGBTQ people. Nick Greiner recognizes these facts and, hopefully, he will be able to lead Australia in the right direction and have same-sex marriage legalized across the country. By legalizing same-sex marriage, Australia can become a more cohesive nation and convince other countries to become frontrunners in the name of equality.   

“Together let’s celebrate the many achievements of this government and focus on the real challenges and opportunities our nation faces.”

 

Originally posted 2017-09-04 17:32:11.


Also published on Medium.

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