Feature image photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Well, happy Independence Day weekend, you guys! Yesterday, the Supreme Court ended Affirmative Action, and today they’ve struck down President Biden’s student debt relief plan and ruled in favor of a wedding web designer who doesn’t want to make sites for gay couples! Let’s do fireworks! Yay, America!
In a 6-3 ruling, split evenly on ideological lines, the conservative bloc of SCOTUS judges agreed that evangelical Christian graphic artist Lori Smith from Colorado does not have to create content for same-sex couples, even though Colorado has anti-discrimination laws in place for such a thing. If a business owner or contractor believes same-sex marriage is “false,” the court said, they would have to create speech they don’t believe to work for LGBTQ people. Therefore, discrimination is their first amendment right.
Writing for the majority, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said: “The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands. Colorado seeks to deny that promise.” He was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissent, and was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. “Today the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class,wp_postsSotomayor wrote. “Today is a sad day in American constitutional law and in the lives of LGBT people.”
She added: “Around the country, there has been a backlash to the movement for liberty and equality for gender and sexual minorities. New forms of inclusion have been met with reactionary exclusion. This is heartbreaking. Sadly, it is also familiar. When the civil rights and women’s rights movements sought equality in public life, some public establishments refused. Some even claimed, based on sincere religious beliefs, constitutional rights to discriminate. The brave Justices who once sat on this Court decisively rejected those claims.”
As NPR notes, SCOTUS has been sidestepping these kinds of gay wedding cases for years, but in an “unusually aggressive move,” the conservative supermajority agreed to decide this case — which wasn’t even based on actual discrimination, but on the idea that a gay couple might try to employ the services of designer Lori Smith — and set a precedent for the 29 other states that have laws requiring businesses open to the public to serve everyone, regardless or race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
This court’s recent decisions, including overturning Roe v. Wade, have compelled Democrats and liberals to begin demanding an end to lifetime SCOTUS appointments, an expanded court, and a binding code of ethics. If that doesn’t happen, it’s not hard to imagine a time in the near future when even marriage equality will be back on the table.