Court and Congress Hammer Out Truce on Gay Rights
America could finally be on its way to hammering out a truce between advocates for same-sex marriage and religious opponents who want no part of it. It's a tall order.
Congress is the architect of one part of the truce. The Senate is advancing a bill, with bipartisan support, to ensure that a same-sex couple's marital status and benefits will be secure in all 50 states. The goal is to get it signed into law before Congress adjourns.
Meanwhile, on Dec. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing a case about Colorado website designer Lorie Smith, who wants to customize websites celebrating weddings, but not same-sex weddings.
Colorado law requires businesses to serve all customers, regardless of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Smith is fine with that. She says she has never turned away gay or lesbian customers. But she draws the line at creating websites for same-sex marriage.
Smith wants to post a sign saying she will design websites only for marriages between one man and one woman, consistent with the teachings of the Bible.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission says "no." The sign would be hurtful to the gay community. If Smith wants to make wedding websites, she must make same-sex wedding websites, too. That's like ordering a store that makes Christmas ornaments to make Hanukkah ornaments, too, or a Muslim catering hall to serve pork chops.
Smith is suing for the right to post her sign. When she lost in the lower courts, dissenting Judge Timothy Tymkovich reflected that "we have moved from 'live and let live' to 'you can't say that.'"
Sound familiar? In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled on a similar case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Owner Jack Phillips said his religion prevented him from designing cakes that celebrate same-sex marriages.
The Court ruled 7-2 for Phillips, arguing that Colorado had taken a mocking, dismissive attitude toward his religion.
Even so, the Masterpiece ruling was not a masterpiece of legal reasoning, which is why the Court is now considering Smith's battle.