HCDP Chair Don Kohn and Stefan Varner, chair of the Democratic LGBT Committee, have expressed deep disappointment in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in a case involving a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.
Their comments came in a news conference at Democratic headquarters in Conway June 5.
“Yesterday’s decision only looked at the fact that Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission did not provide respectful consideration to the religious rights of the baker,” said Kohn. “We can all agree that religious perspectives should be considered respectfully. But, how about the rights of the gay couple? These rights weren’t even considered.”
The ruling by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, approved 7-2 by the court, focused on what he considered to be religious bias by Colorado Civil Rights Commission members who had ruled against the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jack Phillips.
In his decision, Kennedy said the Commission did not adequately consider the baker’s religious convictions. But then, he said that gay people “cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth.”
Kennedy said future cases “must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”
Kohn said LGBTQ Americans still face hurdles of equality across our society. “The Democratic Party stands with LGBTQ communities in America and around the world,” he said. “We believe that no one should face discrimination, bullying or violence because of who they are or who they love. And we will never stop fighting for the equality every human being deserves.”
Varner, while disappointed that the decision did not actually address the issue of whether a business, such as the bakery, could discriminate against individuals on religious grounds, said the ruling clearly demonstrates the need for the LGBT community to participate in the political process and to support candidates in the June 12 primary who will work to protect the rights of everyone to be treated fairly without discrimination.
“Whether we are for or against this side or the other, we as Americans want to assure that everyone is guaranteed due process,” said Varner. “The court seemed to feel the baker had not received due process.”
He pointed out that another case is coming before the Court. “Hopefully, that case will resolve this issue in the end.” Varner said he hopes the issue of equal protection and fair public accommodation will be adjudicated in a fair and equitable way.
“Everyone has a right to be treated equitably and fairly. It is so important that in this political climate that everyone gets out and votes. We cannot afford any more conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Varner declared.
Varner urged LGBT individuals to support the Democratic Party. “It is the political party that supports LGBT people,” he said.
“The Democratic Party believes that no individual has a license to discriminate,” said Kohn. “We believe in the dignity of every human being. As we see it today, LGBTQ Americans still face hurdles to equality across our society from bathrooms to bakeries and the ballot box. Every day, Republicans in Congress, the White House, and at the state and local level are trying to turn back the clock on LGBTQ rights.”
Kohn, too, urged LGBT voters, in fact all Democrats, to vote in the June 12 primary.
“Nothing is going to happen unless you get out and vote and make a difference with your actions at the polls,” he said.