Opponents of equality are seeking to peel back LGBTQ protections nationwide under the guise of religion.
Earlier this year, the Shoreline City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring the city an inviting, equitable and safe community for all. We took a stand upholding the rights of all individuals to be treated fairly and to live their lives with dignity and respect, and free from discrimination. We saw cities across the region adopt similar resolutions, because cities are committed to ensuring equal access to public accommodations for all people.
However, new legal developments may make it harder to protect the rights of all of our residents. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that could roll back protections for Washingtonians, open the door to legalized discrimination and prevent cities from enforcing nondiscrimination laws.
In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins attempted to order a cake from a Lakewood, Colorado, bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop, but they were turned away for being gay. The bakery’s owner claimed that his religious beliefs prevented him from serving all customers equally. Several courts disagreed, including the Colorado Supreme Court last April, affirming that all Americans, including those who are LGBTQ, are equal under the law and deserve to be treated the same by businesses that serve the public. This is the case pending before the Supreme Court.
In Washington, we’ve already had this conversation, and the consensus came loud and clear: discrimination is wrong. In 2006, we passed nondiscrimination protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation. However, Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll were shown the door when they went to Arlene’s Flowers for their wedding, just for being gay. The Benton County judge agreed with the ACLU in Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers that this blatant discrimination violated state law and could not stand.
Earlier this year, our state Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling and confirmed what we’ve long known: When a business opens its doors to the public, it must serve everyone equally. Freedom of religion is a critical part of the Constitution, but it does not give anyone a license to discriminate.
But opponents of equality are seeking to peel back protections nationwide under the guise of religion. This tactic is certainly out of touch with the majority of people who believe in fairness, and grossly out of touch with our values here in Shoreline. A ruling allowing a carveout based on religion would open up a legal can of worms, potentially undermining established nondiscrimination protections for a variety of additional categories, such as race, gender and disability.
That’s why I signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief of 150 mayors and municipalities from all across our nation asking the Supreme Court to leave critical nondiscrimination protections intact. We will all be impacted by the outcome of this case.
A baseline of respect and tolerance is necessary for our society to function. Discrimination has no home here.