WASHINGTON – In a CNN opinion piece, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, discussed the broader civil rights implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This reflection follows the Court’s narrow ruling in favor of a Colorado cakeshop owner who argued that his religious beliefs justified discrimination against same-sex couples.
“The court did not rule that the Constitution grants the right to discriminate but maintained the longstanding principle that business owners cannot deny equal access to goods and services,” wrote Gupta. “The court stated that it may face the constitutional question in future cases that present different circumstances – Monday’s ruling is likely not the final word.”
Gupta noted that the Supreme Court has ruled previously regarding religious exemption from nondiscrimination laws. During the Civil Rights Movement, the Court heard the 1968 Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises case, which involved a barbecue restaurant owner claiming that his religious beliefs justified discrimination against African-American customers. The Court struck down his claim and upheld the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.
“Piggie Park marked the beginning of our courts acknowledging and enforcing America’s obligation of equality under the law when it comes to public accommodations. Fifty years later, the Masterpiece Cakeshop case posed the same question, and the court affirmed the underlying principle that our nation’s businesses should be open to all. But make no mistake: Monday’s decision makes clear that our fight for equal rights and dignity for all must continue.”
The full text of the opinion piece is available here.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.