The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. But not for the reasons some of Silicon Valley’s leading LGBTQ advocates expected.
Many observers braced for a ruling that would undermine anti-discrimination laws throughout the country. Instead, the court condemned the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s hostility to the baker’s Christian faith without touching on the subject of LGBTQ customers’ rights.
In his opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy notes that while the First Amendment protects religious organizations and people, it does not permit business owners and other actors in the economy to deny equal access to goods and services.
BAYMEC—a multi-county LGBTQ political advocacy group founded in the South Bay—issued a statement saying the nonprofit’s board agrees with Kennedy.
But it’s a small win, BAYMEC Vice President Paul Escobar added.
“While we are disappointed that the court declined the opportunity to fully articulate the rights of LGBTQ Americans, we are pleased with this recognition of our fundamental right to be free from discrimination,” he said. “We must continue to work towards ending anti-LGBTQ discrimination once and for all, and the next step in the effort is for Congress to pass the Equality Act.”
BAYMEC cofounder Wiggsy Siversten cautioned that even though the laws remain intact, people who “fail to read beyond the headlines” may still use the occasion to discriminate.
“Those actions remain wrong, unlawful and hurtful,” she said.
According to the Rainbow Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley, 97 percent of queer and transgender Americans say they’ve been harassment on the basis of their sexuality or gender expression. More than 40 percent say they’ve been targeted by homophobic or transphobic violence at work, the group added.
But the Supreme Court case has prompted an outpouring of support for queer and trans people, Rainbow Chamber officials said.
“We … feel energized by this decision and now more than ever believe it is essential to stand with responsible business owners who respect the dignity and rights of their customers,” the chamber wrote in a news release Monday.
To protect local queer and trans people, the Rainbow Chamber launched a program called “Take the Cake Stand,” which promotes local LGBTQ-friendly businesses.
The chamber will collect the names of businesses that want to participate and then promote them online at www.rainbowchamber.org.
“Just because the Supreme Court has affirmed the legality of anti-discrimination laws, does not mean our fight is over,” the group stated. “No LGBTQ American should ever be denied service because of their sexual orientation, and we must all stand together to ensure that this never happens again.”