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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Are antidiscrimination laws weakened by applying them to non-racial minorities?

A news story that has persisted for months in Oregon is the claim by a Christian bakery that they are the victims of a court ordering them to provide a gay wedding cake and so they shut their doors to the public and became a private bakery so that they can pick and choose only customers who match their religious beliefs. (I won't link to the stories here because I am too lazy today and they have appeared in major newspaper publications across Oregon.)

There had been something bothering me about this case, other the usual fact that it bothers me when somebody who is a bully claims they are the victim instead of the person who they are bullying.

My thoughts crystalized after reading the latest letter to the editor by Milt Weaver, "Letters: Don't force bakers to make cake for gay wedding," Gazette-Times, Feb. 6, 2015, p. A9, which prompted me to write, without singling out this particular letter writer, the following letter to the editor in reply:

Having grown up in the segregated South, the recent complaints about a public bakery being forced to make a gay wedding cake sound eerily similar to the complaints I heard from white segregationists about their religious beliefs being compromised if forced to provide public accommodations to "negroes."

To be fair, a few racial or ethnic minorities worry that the Constitutional anti-discrimination laws, originally enacted by both Congress and State Legislatures in response to racial discrimination, are diminished when applied to non-racial minorities.

I believe antidiscrimination laws are strengthened, not weakened, when courts enforce them equally, on a rational basis, for all minorities.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Letters: Anti-gay bakery's protest harkens to civil rights era," Gazette-Times, Feb. 10, 2015, p. A7)

I tried to be careful comparing racial and non-racial minorities because it can be offensive to some people and it can easily lead to bogus conclusions, however, this issue of minority status has been dealt with by the U.S. Supreme Court creating the legal concepts of interpreting laws with "strict scrutiny" or with a "rational basis test." In general, courts have insisted on strictly interpreting laws associated with racial discrimination as requiring more than just a rational basis for any exceptions to the law as it was written by the lawmakers.

So far, all gay rights victories have been decided by the courts with the looser standard of just requiring a rational basis to permit discrimination.

Please note that my above paragraphs are inadequate to summarize all of the nuances of civil rights and minority antidiscrimination laws because this topic can't even be fully taught even in a law school classroom, however, it is easy to find good examples and cases, which, as I said earlier, I am too lazy today to provide today.

See previous post Arthur Leonard on Oregon Marriage Ban and Minnesota passes gay marriage (5/15/13)

To keep my letter short, as required by the newspaper, I also did not attempt to address a popular question in the gay wedding cake case: "Why would anyone want to force a bakery to bake them a wedding cake?" This is question is usually asked by those who believe public bakeries should be allowed to do what they want, for who they want, and then let the marketplace decide, but their philosophy implicitly rejects an important point of civil rights laws, which is the concept that any public business should be open to all customers equally. This is an American value and it is an idea embedded in the U.S. Constitution -- anybody who rejects these values may not see how this would make America a less democratic society, consisting of warring tribes and independent factions, which is a society that no conservative I have met say they want and they assume it won't happen because they assume they are in the majority.

Unrelated note: The reason I am so lazy today is because I just saw a neurologist this morning that was unable to give me any hope of helping me with my life threatening medical condition. I am grateful to God for the good life I have lived and I plan to live the rest of my life the best way possible until I die.