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COLUMN: Civil rights law must be more than getting cake

By: RACHEL STOVALL
December 14, 2017 Updated: December 19, 2017 at 12:31 pm
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I recently noted that the case - Masterpiece Cake Shop LLC vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission - has made it to the Supreme Court. I was pretty incredulous.

I exclaimed out loud to my husband, "All this . about cake?"

Here are the facts. In July, 2012 Charlie Craig and David Mullins went to Masterpiece Cake shop and requested that its owner, Jack C. Phillips, design and create a cake for their wedding. Phillips declined to do so on the grounds that he does not create wedding cakes for same-sex weddings due to his religious beliefs. Phillips believes that decorating cakes is a form of religious art and that it would displease God to create cakes for same-sex marriages.

I've heard arguments for the baker stating that his first amendment rights are being violated. I've also heard arguments for the couple stating that their rights were violated according to the Public Accommodations Act. Both are compelling arguments.

Until you actually read the Public Accommodations Act.

So here it is: All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, . without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion or national origin.

Please take note. Sexual orientation is not included in the act. This law was written as a part of the Civil Rights legislation Act of 1964.

I am perplexed to see these laws being applied to the cake case. I think that I understand how the black struggle for rights has become the template of discrimination cases. I get that the "protected classes" of race, color, religion or national origin have been expanded to include gender and disability.

I see discrimination as being two types. Number one - the irritation of slights/stereotyping discrimination. And number two - the life changing adverse consequences of virulent discrimination. Civil rights laws address the second type of discrimination.

For the black community the life changing adverse consequences of virulent discrimination included: being denied education, refused employment, rejected for housing, and being arrested, beaten or even killed for trying to access public accommodations. Citizenship was non-existent.

Women have had a similar loss of citizenship rights. I am sure that you remember the suffragette movement.

We take voting for granted, yet many disabled people are refused their voting rights on the grounds of being incompetent. This may be the new battlefield for civil rights.

My point is this, the LGBT community has not been denied citizenship rights. Anyone LGBT can vote without anyone questioning their right to do so. And sorry if this offends, but I can see that the LGBT community has not been threatened with arrest over accepting discrimination in public accommodation.

There is no parallel between the LGBT and other communities in the struggle for civil rights. For blacks, women and the disabled, our government supported virulent discrimination against these groups in every facet of our national lives. Change had to be forced.

And despite the civil rights legislation, the struggle against discrimination is hardly over. Some political leaders openly espouse discrimination. And the Civil Rights legislation has a deadline that looms over all of our heads.

I am not unsympathetic to the LGBT struggle. I have LGBT friends and family. I can see how being ostracized socially is painful. I know that the struggle in the workplace is real for many. I have heard that numbers for self harm is pretty off the chart in this community.

And as we address virulent discrimination to LGBT citizens (or any of our citizens) we must fight for fairness. If anyone attacks your right to vote, I will stand with you. Furthermore, I do not want anyone to discriminate against you in education, the workplace, housing or public accommodation.

But is cake the case that changes it all? I just don't see the day where retailers nationally will refuse to serve the LGBT community. I fail to understand the life-changing adverse result of not getting cake.

Find a case that seriously highlights virulent discrimination. Civil rights is serious. The application of civil rights law has to be about more than hurt feelings.

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Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Rachel is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.

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