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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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How To Complete NaNoWriMo Without Losing Your Sanity

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When most think of November, they conjure up images of turkey, cozy sweaters, and the seemingly endless preparations for the Holiday Season. However, if you’re in the writing community, November brings up images of frantic typing and the fear of a looming deadline.

That’s right folks, NaNoWriMo is here, and it’s getting cray.

  What’s NaNoWriMo you ask? It’s a fancy acronym for National Novel Writing Month. This month-long creative “holiday” was created by freelance writer Chris Baty in July of 1999 with 21 participants in the San Francisco Bay area. The next year, it was moved from July to November to “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.

The objective? Write a rough draft of a novel (about 50,000 words or more) in 30 days. Anyone else screaming yet?

This is a free event that anyone can do, just join their website and start writing in any format. Just as long as you get 50,000 words before the end of the month. Participants can submit their novel to be automatically verified for length and receive a printable certificate, an icon they can display on the web, and inclusion on the list of winners. Also, bragging rights.

 Hey there,  I’m Ellen, a Features Writer here at TravelPride and a writer by occupation. I have a BFA in Creative Writing and have written a novel already. I’ve always wanted to do NaNoWriMo and I thought this would be the perfect time to do it. Plus I want to take a break from writing my current memoir and do the fun interconnected short story collection I’ve been dying to write for years. I thought this was going to be so easy. I mean my senior thesis was 50,000 words. My novel manuscript is 96,000 words. 50,000 words will be a piece of cake.

Me, Writer and actual Fool.

I was wrong. It’s hard ya’ll.

       To complete NaNoWriMo on time you need to write 1,667 words per day, which is roughly 6 pages, double-spaced. That may not seem like a lot, but with everything you have to do in a day, plus find the creativity and energy to write 6 pages seems overwhelming.

   Then there’s something I call the “NaNo slump” which happens around the second or third week of November. The first week of NaNoWriMo you’re all excited and ready to write, cranking out 2,000+ words a day. Then you get busy, writer’s block or just plain fall behind and then quit because you think you can ever catch up.

   Well, stop write there (get it?). I’ve got some great tips for how to complete NaNoWriMo without losing your inspiration, hope, and sanity.

 

Write Everyday

The most important part of writing for NaNoWriMo or just being a writer is creating a writing schedule. One of the genius things about NaNoWriMo is that it allows you to become a better and more successful writer after this is over since it takes 30 days to create a habit. By writing every day in the month of November, you’re setting yourself up for writing all year long.

Carve a period of time out of your day and set it aside just for writing. It can be early in the morning, late at night, an hour, two, whatever you can and use that time to just write and only write. If your life is a little crazy and can’t form a schedule, write when you’re on the go. Carry your tablet with you, use the Notes app on your phone, or do the old-fashioned pen and paper and write whenever you get a free moment. Waiting for your flight? Write. Commuting to home or work? Write. On your lunch break? Write! You’ll be surprised how all those little moments of writing really add up. It’s just important to write every day. Just write it!

Prompts

   Oh, Writer’s block, the sworn enemy of a writer. That blank page causes so much anxiety and could lead you to giving up on your project because you’re “stuck.” A writing prompt could help you. NaNoWriMo’s website is awesome because they have a feature called “word sprints” which is a timed writing challenge. You set a timer, open up your draft, and race against the clock to add words to your novel. They have a cool “dare me” button that gives you little writing prompts such as “Write a scene that takes place in a house of mirrors.” or “Have one character have a sudden personality switch with another”. It’s a fun little way to get the juices going. You can also just google “writing prompts” to find some good ones. Have fun with it!

Buddy System

   Teamwork makes the dream work! NaNoWriMo has a cool feature where you can have a writing buddy with friends who are also doing NaNoWriMo, which is a fun way to help encourage each other or be a shoulder to cry on. One of my dear friends, Cassie, who’s also a writer has been doing NaNoWriMo for years and she’s been a great resource (she also made a book cover for me, because she’s the real MVP). My friend Kelsey is doing NaNoWriMo for the first time too. It’s just nice to not feel alone in my frustrations and have someone who is also going through this. NaNoWriMo also has forums where writers can talk to one another because, despite popular belief, writers are not solitary creatures, but communities.

Let Go and Have Fun

   I personally put so much pressure on myself, not only during NaNoWriMo but in my everyday professional life. When something I write isn’t perfect on the first try, or I don’t meet my word count, I beat myself up over it. You have to remember that NaNoWriMo is all about having fun. No one is reading your novel right now, no one is judging you but yourself. You have 30 days to write 50,000 words, it’s okay if you take a break or write something crappy. You can always write more words and it’s better to write something crappy and edit it later than to never write at all.

   For some more words of advice let’s talk to TravelPride’s own Editor and Weekly Columnist, Summer Kurtz. Summer has actually completed NaNoWriMo in the past. Here’s how she completed the writing challenge:

“I had to set a schedule/goal and really stick to it as closely as I could. I think I tried to do a certain number of words daily and if I didn’t quite hit that I had a weekly goal to try and meet or even exceed if possible. It really helped me to become a more disciplined writer but also learn not to beat myself up over not reaching every single goal. On days I got stuck I would write a couple hundred words on any other topic I felt like until my motivation returned.”

   Fantastic advice. How are doing in NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments and follow my own NaNoWriMo journey here. Remember: we’re all in this together!

Happy Writing!

 

Originally posted 2017-11-15 18:30:10.

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Thanksgiving Alternatives for Everyone

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Halloween is (unfortunately) over, and if you live in the United States that means it’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving plans. By now, we’ve all come to realize that contrary to what Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Want wants us to believe, this holiday isn’t perfect for a variety of reasons. Maybe you recognize that Thanksgiving celebrates nothing but the near-destruction of a culture and has been heavily white-washed over the years. Maybe your family is transphobic or homophobic. Or maybe you don’t have a family to visit, or they’re too far away. Whatever the reason, for many, Thanksgiving is an altogether unpleasant and/or unsafe holiday. But don’t worry, you have options. So whether you’d rather avoid your family or just can’t make it home this year, here are some ideas to consider so you don’t wind up eating dinner alone on Thanksgiving.

Friendsgiving

As adults, we have more freedom to decide how we spend our holidays. This usually involves deciding who hosts and who to invite, but this doesn’t have to only extend to family. If you’d love to host Thanksgiving dinner at your place, invite a bunch of friends over and make a potluck out of it! Have everyone bring a dish, and enjoy the family you’ve built along the way. This provides a safe space for those who don’t feel safe at home, and you’re more likely to enjoy your holidays. I’ve done this in the past with my other LGBTQ friends, and it was a blast. I felt so at home with no one to judge me (and no awkward political arguments breaking out).

Reach Out

If your close friends would rather spend Thanksgiving with family and you have nowhere to go, remember that there are always others who probably don’t have plans either. Reach out to coworkers and neighbors if you have them, and see if they have somewhere to go. If not, the potluck idea works here too and is a great way to get to know people better. And sometimes you might get lucky and a coworker or neighbor has an extra spot at their family’s table. Maybe you don’t like spending time with your family, but there are good ones out there that are more accepting.

Give Back

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and to give back to those around you. If you’d prefer to skip the holiday meal altogether, consider volunteering. Soup kitchens and shelters can always use an extra volunteer and give you a chance to make someone else’s holiday a little brighter. Volunteer Match lets you locate volunteer opportunities in your area so you can start giving back sooner.

 

Remember, many people can’t go home for the holidays or aren’t comfortable around family, so pay attention to those around you. Ask people about their plans and consider including them in yours if they have nowhere to go. The holidays are all about caring about each other, and this is just one of the many ways we can spread the love.

Originally posted 2017-11-15 14:55:13.

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Ten Literary Landmarks For Any Traveling Booklover

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Books are magical. They can take you to far-off places without even moving your feet. But what if you want to see the places of people you’ve read about in real life? Luckily, organizations such as the American Library Association, global historical society, and die-hard bookworms, have preserved and created literary landmarks that anyone can enjoy all across the world. From childhood homes, museums, and even statues. Here’s a list of 10 places to add to your literary bucket list.

 

 

 

Edith Wharton(1862-1937) broke gender boundaries and society’s exceptions to become one of America’s greatest writers. She was the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel Age of Innocence. Most of her novels have themes of declining morals and wealth in the late nineteenth century. The Mount is not your typical author home tour. Not only does it offer guided tours and exhibits, it also has ghost tours, mimosas on the terrace, a cafe, a women’s writer-in resistance program, and a pet cemetery. Heck, you can even have your wedding at the Mount, but honestly, you had me at ghost tours.

  1.  The windmill at the Stony Brook Southampton campus, Southampton, NY

  

 Okay, so I’m down for anything that has to deal with windmills but the story behind the Windmill at the Stony Brook Southampton Campus is both interesting and sad. In 1957. the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams lived in the campus windmill after the death of his friend and Abstract Expressionist painter, Jackson Pollock, and wrote the play “The Day on Which a Man Dies” based on Pollock. Sad, but the fact that he lived in a windmill is pretty cool.

  1. Charles Dickens Museum, London, England

Making a trek to London during the holiday season?  Make sure you plan to visit 48 Doughty Street, the London Home of Charles Dickens. This is the home where the famed writer wrote the classic novel Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers. The Charles Dickens Museum holds over 100,000 items including manuscripts, personal items and more. There are exhibits, a garden cafe, as well as a lot of activities for children such as the Costumed Christmas walks, performances of “A Christmas Carol” and “A Very Dickensian Christmas Eve.”

  1. Sleepy Hollow, New York

Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has become a classic Halloween spooky story still read today. However, many don’t know that Sleepy Hollow is a real place, one which has fully embraced its celebrity status. There’s the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Tour, The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, The Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse Tours, Haunted Hayrides and so much more. They even take on some other classic works such as a circus-theater adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven and a one-man show of A Christmas Carol.

  1. Walden Pond, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Get lost like Thoreau by visiting Walden Pond! Perfect for nature lovers, you can take a lovely nature walk/hike, spend the day at the beach, go kayaking or canoeing on the water or fish; you can even cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter. You can visit Thoreau’s original cabin and the reproduction. Since the land has been left unchanged it’s almost like you’re walking through the Walden that Thoreau knew.

  1. Shakespeare’s Globe, London, England.

Shakespeare and book lovers go together like pretzels and Nutella. Even if you haven’t read any of the original Shakespearean text, you’ve probably been exposed to some adaptions (10 Things I Hate about You anyone?). The Globe is still standing after many rebuilds, and still holds performances as well as exhibitions and tours. They still put on Shakespeare’s plays; last season they put on King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet, some with a modern twist.

  1. Platform 9 ¾, King’s Cross Station, London

Every Harry Potter fan dreams of one day going to Platform 9 3/4 and getting on the Hogwarts Express. While you might not be able to hop on the Hogwarts Express, you can now find the actual Platform 9 3/4 and have your picture taken holding the handle of a trolley, making it look like you’re running from one world to the next. Don’t forget your wand and house scarf!

  1. James Joyce’s Dublin, Ireland.

Author James Joyce made his beloved Ireland famous with his epic novel Ulysses and other novels that also take place in the city of Dublin. It’s so popular that there is even a holiday known as “Bloomsday” in honor of the character. You can take a walking tour of James Joyce’s Dublin, a 3.5-mile route broken up into two days for the full experience. Some of the stops on the tour include the James Joyce Center, The Writer’s Museum, Merrion Square where you’ll find a statue of laid-back Oscar Wilde, and lots of bars.

  1. Jane Austen’s House and Museum, Hampshire, England

As a Jane Austen fan, I’m all about the Jane Austen House and Museum. Especially since this year is the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death. There’s a lot of bicentennial events going on including exhibits, film screenings, talks, walks, and even picnics. You may even find your match!

  1. Edgar Allan Poe Museum, Richmond, VA

As a huge Poe fan, I would be remiss to leave him off the list. The Poe house, while not in some haunted mansion or catacomb, is still pretty cool. They have an enchanted garden (with a Pumpkin Patch), a shrine to Poe where people like Gertrude Stein and H.P. Lovecraft have visited, as well as a large collection of Poe’s artifacts. The museum also has two living black cats: Edgar and Pluto, that live in the museum. There are also a lot of parties going on at the museum, such as a Halloween Bash, an “Unhappy” Hour of live music, and Poe’s Birthday Bash on January 20th. They host weddings at the Enchanted Garden, which is the only way I’ll ever have a wedding.

 

Have you visited these literary landmarks or have more destinations to add that will make any book lover put down their book? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Travels!

Originally posted 2017-11-14 20:32:01.

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