In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Laws Must Protect LGBTQ People and Religious Minorities, Not Burden Them

This week, Advocates for Youth joins a coalition of 15 diverse civil rights and faith-based organizations on an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. At issue in this case is whether a commercial bakery that operates as a place of public accommodations under Colorado’s anti-discrimination law may use a religious or free speech justification to avoid providing a service to customers because of their sexual orientation. We join other organizations in emphatically answering no.

Spearheaded by Muslim Advocates and Columbia Law School’s Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, we argue that a business that is open to the public cannot refuse to sell a product – such as wedding cake – because they do not agree with a couples’ sexual orientation. As a nation, we decided more than a half century ago that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms, and that includes customers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.

The amicus brief argues that broad accommodations of religious liberty, such as those being requested by Masterpiece Cakeshop, not only will discriminate against LGBTQ people but also religious minorities like Muslim-identifying people. As the brief explains: “Without robust protections against religion-based discrimination, adherents of minority religions will be chilled in exercising the tenets of their faith for fear of experiencing bias in public accommodations, employment and in housing, as well as in other sectors of public and private life.”

Businesses and their owners have a right to express themselves and to their religion, but those freedoms don’t give businesses open to the public the right to discriminate when serving their customers. Masterpiece Cakeshop is not about asking the Supreme Court to protect religious liberties but instead, it’s asking the Court to weaken one to uplift another. Young people are moving this country forwards, not backwards – and they won’t stand for a government-sanctioned right to discriminate.