Let’s get one thing straight: I’m gay and I don’t like cake.
This simple pastry, though, has come to symbolize the fight for full and complete LGBTQ equality in recent years.
Just a few days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado in 2012, with an incredibly vague opinion that does little to help defenders of LGBTQ rights or religious liberties.
The vague and wordy nature of the court’s opinion does not lend itself to easy understanding. It seems to say everything and yet nothing about the issue the case brings up — discrimination vs. religious liberties. It acknowledges the various issues queer people face, but does nothing to remedy those very same problems.
The opinion of the court, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, states that the reason for siding with the baker was the handling of the case by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC) saying that they “did not do so with the religious neutrality the Constitution requires.”
Basically, because of the “religious hostility” exhibited by the CCRC, it was deemed the baker did not have a fair trial. What the court never elaborates on, though, is whether or not the state can require a baker to make a cake for LGBTQ people. In fact, it states that “the outcome of cases like this must await further elaboration in the courts.”
Even though the opinion never states that the baker had the right to deny service to the couple, the perception it creates certainly does. For many, especially those who did not read the decision, it would appear that the court upheld the baker’s freedom of religion, and that he can not be required to bake cakes for occasions that violate his religious beliefs.
Others point out the ruling came about due to the baker’s artistic expression through his cakes, something the court mentions but, again, never delivers a firm opinion on.
Here’s the thing: what’s at stake in this case goes far beyond one wedding cake. This was not brought before the Supreme Court so the Justices could discuss wedding plans from six years ago.
No, this case affects everything that LGBTQ people purchase. Gay couples have been denied home loans, healthcare and even fired from their job because of who they are, all of which are far more consequential than some cake. In fact, only 20 states, including Colorado, offer anti-discrimination protection for all LGBTQ individuals, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
In an interview with CNN, legal expert Jeffrey Toobin points out how the court’s decision to wait on future cases invites further acts of discrimination. While this certainly was not the court’s intention, it is undoubtedly true.
Based on the vague nature of this ruling, employers and business owners may feel more empowered to use claims of religious freedom to deny services to gay people. Such incidents already occur regularly around the country, but now may even circumvent what little anti-discrimination laws do exist.
While the gay couple could have just gone to another bakery, they shouldn’t have to, not only because it violates the law. Being told to your face that a product will not be sold to you because of your sexual orientation is a humiliating and infuriating experience. It’s like every bully you had in school reappears, making you feel bad for being different.
That’s an experience that no person should ever have to go through, and condescendingly saying you’ll make them cupcakes, but not a wedding cake, only adds insult to injury.
If the court’s wish was for the case to not establish precedence while respecting the rights of the religious and LGBTQ communities, then that was not achieved. They would have been better off not taking the case at all.
Kyle Land is the editor-in-chief for the Daily Lobo. The opinions reflected in this column are his own. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.