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Retrospective No. 4: "On the 'Baker's Case' and LGBTQ Rights"

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Introduction: This is the fourth in an occasional series that of columns that I previously published both on OpEdNews and other sites, that bear relevance to current events.

The original version of this column was published in this space last December, at: https://www.opednews.com/articles/LGBT-Rights-and-Religious-by-Steven-Jonas-Abortion_Bible_Freedom-Of-Association_Freedom-Of-Religion-171206-729.html, the day after Supreme Court heard the arguments in the "Baker's Refusal" case. The day after the handing down of the Court's decision in that case I republished it on Reader Supported News/Writing for Godot (see below). This is indeed, a landmark, retrograde case, of which the Gorsuch/Roberts Court is providing the nation with many.

From flickr.com: 40.StopGorsuch.USSC.WDC.31Janu ary2017.  Indeed he is, and will be for a very long time. {MID-297165}
40.StopGorsuch.USSC.WDC.31Janu ary2017. Indeed he is, and will be for a very long time.
(Image by Elvert Barnes)
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Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy tried to make it clear that the decision in favor of allowing discrimination against a certain identity group in a public business was not to be taken as establishing a precedent. The decision, he took pains to tell us, really revolved around what he and his six colleagues saw as the impoliteness towards the practice of religious authoritarianism/exclusion on the part of one member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Oh dear! One person's impoliteness, is another's "political correctness," but that is a matter for another time.

However, to the surprise of no one the Religious Right is taking this decision as a sanction for discriminating, and they will do it to a fare-thee-well. As a practical matter, as I put it in a tweet: "thepoliticaljunkies" @tpjmagazine14m14 minutes ago:

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2018/06/04/supreme-court-hands-narrow-win-to-baker-over-gay-couple-dispute/23450400/The " Supreme Court has legalized homophobia and discrimination in public places, based on "religious belief" (sic). Next on the docket? Discrimination against persons of color, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and etc., for the same reason. Religious War, here we come."

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And then, as if on cue, came this item: "Texas Church Will Hold Lecture On 'Dangerous' Judaism" (as well as on "dangerous Islam). (See below for the link.)

And now, on to the original column.

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Today, December 5, 2017, the Supreme Court heard the arguments in the "Baker' Refusal" case. In simple terms, the case is about the challenge of a (can we say it?) homophobic (few others do, but I will) baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. This led to his being charged with a violation of an anti-discrimination law in the state of Colorado. The baker maintains that his "religious beliefs" (really his homophobia, but nobody wants to talk about that) about the sinfulness of homosexuality and in particular the practice, now legal throughout the land, of same-sex marriage. He argues that because the institution of same-sex marriage (now established as the law-of-the-land) violates his religious beliefs, he should not be subject to the Colorado anti-discrimination statute.

The baker lost before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the courts in Colorado, and the Federal Courts through the Court of Appeals level. A basically right-wing Supreme Court, with a new far-right member, will for the indefinite future now decide a case that will set the standards for possible public discrimination, not only against the LGBT community, but any other one to which some "religious" person might find some "religious" objection. And of course, the homophobic Trump Administration and its "Justice" department are supporting the baker.

Now the standard way for approaching this case for the pro-LGBT rights forces is that the prohibition of discrimination, in the public marketplace, based on various identifying features of various persons, is prohibited by the state law in Colorado and that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission has the power to enforce the law, which stands against such discrimination, in matters covered by the law. In other words, for LGBT side, it is simply a matter of prohibiting exceptions to a civil discrimination law, based on equality before the law. The baker and his supporters claim that their religious beliefs, and their behaviors based on those religious beliefs, are in control here, as matters of "free speech" and "religious freedom."

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In essence, their argument is that their religious beliefs are controlling (click here ) for them for certain of their behaviors, and thus over-ride any interest of the State of Colorado in outlawing discrimination in the public square. Thus, they contend that their "religious freedom," couched in terms of "free speech," permits them to openly discriminate in the public square, against any persons they choose to discriminate against, based, I suppose, on any characteristic of those persons they decide offends their "religious sensibilities."

In my view, the issue here goes well beyond the validity of a state anti-discrimination law and whether a given person, operating in the public square, can choose to disobey it based "free speech" and "religious freedom."

As I wrote some weeks ago (modified here to deal with the LGBT-rights issue), in dealing with the abortion-rights issue and "freedom of religion: "The position of the anti-LGBT-rights forces is based exclusively on the religious concept of "what is 'normal' sexual identity and behavior." And it is a religious concept (just like "life begins at the moment of conception" is a religious concept). In fact, to support it, the anti-LGBT rights movement most often cites the "inerrant word of God" as found in the Bible. They make no bones about the religious source of their position. There were certainly plenty of gay people around in Biblical times. Otherwise the homophobes who were around then too would not have felt the urge to put their proscriptions into the Biblical text.

From flickr.com: First Edition of The King James Bible.  Obviously handed down directly from the God's hand (in the printing style of the time, of course). {MID-297166}
First Edition of The King James Bible. Obviously handed down directly from the God's hand (in the printing style of the time, of course).
(Image by ejmc)
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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a "Trusted Author," he is a Senior Editor, (more...)
 

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