Our country has made leaps and bounds towards the abolishment of discrimination. Ever since the outlaw of segregation in public educational facilities, thanks to Brown v. Board of Education, America has since made significant efforts to stop discrimination in its tracks. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the final push we had to make in order to desegregate and terminate the majority of discrimination across our country. However, since we have evolved into more modern times, we are being faced with different sectors of discrimination.
It wasn’t until the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that mass amounts of people began to openly express themselves as a member of the LGBTQ community. And as this prideful community grows, society as a whole is beginning to accept the ideals of these genuine people. Nevertheless, with this acceptance comes anger from those who disagree with the open lifestyles of the LGBTQ community. Such people are a handful of conservatives, our very own president, and religious persons. The question now is can one legally discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community due to religious or moral beliefs? This controversial topic is more relevant today than it has ever been, and the fact that we have to even ask this question is beyond belief. Discrimination should never be tolerated, even under religious grounds.
In 2012, Jack Phillips and his masterpiece cakeshop refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on the basis of his religious beliefs. The couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig felt no need to stay quiet. When the news hit media, the Colorado cake shop became a “symbol of discrimination for many in the LGBTQ community…” (Calfas, 2018, para. 3). The situation was recognized by many and eventually escalated to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case was significantly controversial. Phillips and his team argued that making a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding would technically involve him in the event which was “religiously” immoral to him. They asked, If vegan bakeries do not have to sell non-vegan products based on their religious beliefs, why should he have to sell a cake to a gay couple if his religion goes against it? Philips and his team made use of the First Amendment. Not only does he have freedom of religion but the First Amendment also grants him the freedom of self-expression, and to Phillips, that means expressing himself through the art of his cakes.
To be realistic, a vegan bakery does not offer non-vegans products, however, Phillips cakeshop does offer wedding cakes, just not to homosexuals. Craig said, “If Phillips didn’t want to sell wedding cakes to gay couples, he shouldn’t sell wedding cakes at all.” (Calfas, 2018, para. 9). Phillips claim of “self-expression” should and does not “exempt business owners from public accommodation laws, which requires them to serve equally.” (Corvino, 2017) Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court Justices ruled 7-2 in favor of Phillips. This was a huge lose for the LGBTQ community and those who are fighting with them. What many people don’t realize is that this court ruling has started a wave of discrimination across our country based on religious grounds, and it is frightening.
Due to this Supreme Court ruling, religious persons are now more confident than ever. They see this as their chance to ask, “Well if they don’t have to provide service to gays, why should we?” And adoption agencies are being the first ones to ask. The House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment that, if implemented, would allow adoption agencies and child welfare services to refuse gay couples based on their religious or moral beliefs despite the needs of the child (Diaz, 2018, para. 1). This implementation would be called Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act.
The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act would cause a great deal of damage if implemented. Not only would the needs of children be overlooked, but our tax dollars would be used for discriminatory purposes. “The act would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human services to withhold 15% of the federal funds a state receives to administer child welfare programs if it fails to comply the provisions of the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act” (Human Rights Campaign, 2017, para 2). More importantly, by taking adoption rights away from the LGBTQ community, we are denying a child’s right to be a part of a happy, safe, loving family and home. As of today, there are hundreds of thousands eligible children waiting to be fostered or adopted. Same-sex couples are six times more likely to foster and four times more likely to adopt than a heterosexual couple (Diaz, 2018, para. 6). With that being said, it’s easy to imagine the significant amount of kids that will lose their opportunity if this act was implemented.
The discrimiation doesn’t stop at the LGBTQ community. Women have become a target of this discriminatory behavior as well. President Donald Trump, and his administration, have drafted a rule that could allow religious employers to deny covering their employees birth control in their health insurance plans (Cooney, 2017, para. 1). This rule specifically targets a mandate in the Affordable Care Act which requires employers to provide cost free birth control to their employees. So far this mandate has benefitted over 50 million women across the United States. If we were put under new regulations, hundreds of thousands of women could lose their benefits of no cost contraceptives (Pear, 2017, para. 8). This would indefinitely strip away our rights as women to provide ourselves with the contraceptives needed not only for safe sex, but also for medical conditions such as irregular periods, acne, endometriosis, etc.
In the end religious freedom is a fundamental right. However, to say it is an absolute right is incorrect. “It cannot be used as a shield to permit discrimination against LGBTQ Americans” (Pear, 2017, para. 18). This being the same shield employers and businesses tried to use a half century ago to discriminate against African-Americans based on their religious or moral beliefs, in which this case the Federal Courts denied (Pear, 2017, para. 18). If it was denied then, it can and must be denied now. Our citizens have basic rights that are now being infringed upon because we are permitting the excuse of “religious freedom” and “self expression.” As a country we are taking a giant step back by allowing such behavior to continue.
So when does the excuse of “religious freedom” end? Are we just going to allow bakeries and/or all businesses for that matter deny service to our LGBTQ community? How long is our country willing to let a child’s needs go unattended? And how soon will our rights as women be striped from us at the hands of our own government? I wish I could tell you.