WASHINGTON, D.C.—It almost seems like the start of a bad joke—”Two gays walk into a bakery…”—but it’s all too real for victims of bigotry everywhere.
As anyone who’s read the newspapers or listened to the news over the past week or so already knows, the U.S. Supreme Court gave a win to Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who in 2012 refused to bake a wedding cake for gay couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, as he had done for hundreds of other customers, because, Phillips claimed, to do so would somehow v*****e his religious beliefs. The couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which held a couple of hearings on the matter and eventually fined Phillips for violating the couple’s civil rights.
It took more than five years for the case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, with the Commission’s position being upheld at every turn—until it reached the five conservatives and two liberals-who-should-know-better on the high court, which reversed the lower courts and sent Phillips on his merry way (and likely gave a huge payday to his attorneys, the ultra-religious/conservative Alliance Defending Freedom).
But what should be most troubling for adult entertainment community members and their supporters, not to mention sex workers in general, is the “logic” by which the Supremes came to their decision.
First, let’s get the facts straight. Despite his claims to the contrary, Jack Phillips is a bigot. The fact that he’s a bigot who claims his religion (Christianity, if you hadn’t guessed) is the source of his bigotry doesn’t change the fact that he’s a bigot.
Fact #2: When it comes to LGBT people, there’s no doubt that the main Christian text, the supposed “word of God,” is bigoted against them. One only need look at the Bible’s book of Leviticus to see the evidence. Take Chapter 20 Verse 13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their b***d shall be upon them.” (Hey, at least Phillips didn’t kill Craig and Mullins on sight, so maybe he’s not a Bible literalist.)
Don’t like the Old Testament? How about Romans 1 Verses 26-27, where the apostle Paul talks of the “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness”: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” Sure, the ancient King James version of the Bible is a slog to get through, but the meaning of “leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly” is clear enough.
So, to summarize, Jack Phillips is a bigoted follower of a religion that supports bigotry, at least when it comes to homosexuality—and that’s exactly what he brought to the high court in appealing his losses in the lower courts.
So what did the U.S. Supreme Court do? Rather than confront Phillips’ bigotry, it instead spent its time looking at the transcripts of the hearings before the Civil Rights Commission … and found things like these three paragraphs from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion:
“On July 25, 2014, the Commission met again. This meeting, too, was conducted in public and on the record. On this occasion another commissioner made specific reference to the previous meeting’s discussion but said far more to disparage Phillips’ beliefs. The commissioner stated:
“‘I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.’
“To describe a man’s faith as ‘one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use’ is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere. The commissioner even went so far as to compare Phillips’ invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. This sentiment is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s antidiscrimination law—a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.”
Those are direct quotes from Justice Kennedy’s opinion in the case, and to anyone with the slightest bit of common sense, that “logic” is clearly complete horseshit. What Kennedy is essentially saying is that while Phillips is using his religion to justify his bigotry, somehow by the Commission’s calling attention to the basis of that bigotry—words/ideas in the Christian Bible—that somehow lets Phillips ignore the civil rights laws that apply to everyone and continue being a bigot???
Attorney and legal blogger Elie Mystal agrees: “So a random Colorado commissioner accurately talks about how religion has been used to justify bigotry, and Kennedy says that it frustrates an otherwise simple application of anti-discrimination law.”
Earlier in the opinion, Kennedy stated, “The reason and motive for the baker’s refusal were based on his sincere religious beliefs and convictions. The Court’s precedents make clear that the baker, in his capacity as the owner of a business serving the public, might have his right to the free exercise of religion limited by generally applicable laws. Still, the delicate question of when the free exercise of his religion must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power needed to be determined in an adjudication in which religious hostility on the part of the State itself would not be a factor in the balance the State sought to reach.” [Emphasis added]
No, it didn’t. Phillips broke Colorado’s civil rights laws when he refused to bake a wedding cake for the two gay men—a law which doesn’t contain a clause to the effect that “discrimination is okay if the bigot’s religion (or his personal religious beliefs) approves of it.” If the Commissioners recognized that indeed, Phillips’ understanding of Christian belief was in concert with Phillips’ personal Christian beliefs, why should that make a difference? Bigotry is bigotry, no matter who does it.
But what is particularly worrisome is that if the conservative Justices on the court (not to mention two others who should know better) can sign on to this perversion of logic, what’s to stop them from giving a legal pass to anyone who claims their religion “requires” them to discriminate against, for instance, sex workers (including porn stars) in ordinary business dealings?
For example, Sara Jay has been blackballed by Airbnb simply because, as they put it, “For the safety and security of our community, we restrict access to the platform when users have advertised sexual services in exchange for compensation. … In this case, advertisements featuring Ms. Jay run afoul of this policy.” Now, as Jay’s business manager pointed out, the two “examples”—Jay’s own website, which says nothing about escorting, and an escort site based in South America that Jay wasn’t even aware of—don’t mention anything about her having sex either in an Airbnb she would rent or in her own apartment that people on Airbnb could rent from her. Clearly, the company discriminated against Jay—surely they understand that some people do have sex in the Airbnb they rent?—but if this case winds up in court, couldn’t the company’s owners claim that their religious beliefs prevented them from doing business with a sex worker? After all, a similar “religious belief” claim worked for the owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores when they refused to provide insurance coverage for contraception to their employees. They won at the Supreme Court as well!
And let’s not forget Operation Choke Point, a federal program created by the U.S. Department of Justice which required financial institutions to “examine” their relationships with online payment processors, especially those on the Department’s blacklist, which included “escort services” and “pornography.” Several adult credit card processors lost their banking privileges over that one, not to mention several adult performers lost their bank accounts—and considering the conservative religious bent of so much of the Trump administration, what’s to stop them from creating a new Operation Choke Point that targets people and businesses of “bad moral/sacrilegious character”? Does anyone think the Supreme Court would side with porn stars or adult businesspeople over the owners of big banks—especially if the bank owners were using their “religious beliefs” as an excuse?
A lot of commentators have attempted to downplay the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision as being very narrow—but one thing’s for sure: the adult community had better hope that none of the “liberal” Supreme Court justices die or resign while the religio-conservatives control Washington!
Originally published at: https://avn.com/business/articles/legal/op-ed-what-the-masterpiece-cakeshop-decision-means-for-adult-780947.htmlTags: Mark Kernes