OPINION: Freedom of speech does not equate to freedom of discrimination

Tamlynn Torchon

Graphic by Sam Chaney

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Colorado bakery that refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding. The case was decided by a 7-2 majority vote, according to the New York Times. This decision was made with consideration of the “sincere religious beliefs” held by the owner Jack Phillips, according to Justice Kennedy. This decision was also made during this year’s Pride Month, which is a sad coincidence for the LGBT community- a community that the U.S. should be celebrating.

First, let’s note that this ruling goes against Colorado Anti-Discrimination Laws, as this state is part of the 20 states that have enacted protection laws to fight these instances. This ruling, however, does not violate the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that private businesses who serve the public are prohibited from discriminating against a person on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or disability. Note that sexual orientation or gender identity are not mentioned, which means that this decision is federally legal and it overrules any state decision. It also does not matter that same-sex marriage laws do not provide protection in this case, either.

Was the decision right? Legally-speaking, yes it was. Morally-speaking, it depends on one’s personal beliefs on marriage, faith, business practices and government intervention. Many echo Jack Phillips’ sentiment of religious freedom, which falls under freedom of speech: why serve someone who does something that goes against one’s seriously-held faith?

Freedom of speech is the ability for one to freely express themselves without the fear of repercussions of any sorts. It is a highly-valued principle in the United States that everyone must fight to protect. However, freedom of speech does not- and will never- equate to freedom of discrimination or hatred.

This case is not the first time bakeries have refused to serve people based on their sexual orientation, and it is controversial for several reasons: it is discriminatory, it shows some preference for Christian values over others and, most importantly, it questions the efficiency or legitimacy of freedom of speech and expression. That same-sex couple is exercising their freedom of speech in celebrating what is perhaps one of the best moments of their lives: marriage, which is something everyone of all or no faiths can understand. Ultimately, businesses are about a profit; money or cake as objects do not care about any social construct humans fuss over, and perhaps we should all emulate that interesting factor.

The United States is, arguably, a secular state, and that secularism guarantees peoples’ rights to practice any religion, or not practice at all. Phillips’ strong belief in his faith should not give him leeway to turn away people for a difference of opinion on how marriage should be. It is a bit hypocritical, even in Christian terms. Within Christianity, God Himself gives us, His children, the freedom to choose how to live in this world. Even if you hold no religious ground, it is a bit dehumanizing to base someone’s worth of receiving your service on their personal life, which does not affect your own in any way, shape or form. Seriously, how does someone’s sexuality affect you or your family if you’re not directly involved with this person? If this situation happened reversely, where a store run by a same-sex couple refused to serve a religious person or couple, would you be as supportive of this ruling?

If a religion encourages you to dehumanize or withhold service to others for whatever reason, maybe it’s time to question that religion or the general understanding of it. Let’s remember that in the end, we are all God’s creation, and we all deserve happiness in this already-challenging world we live in. Perhaps it is time to demand that businesses clearly showcase who they are and aren’t willing to serve so that potential clients can save time and retain their dignity by purchasing at stores that do want their money, regardless of their lifestyle.

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