SCOTUS ruling in civil rights case draws Utah’s possible Public Accommodations enactment

The Monday after Utah’s Pride Festival weekend, SCOTUS issued its ruling in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which reversed the verdict in favor of the defendant in 2017.

In a statement, Mayor Biskupski expressed disappointment. “I feel strongly — as I did then — that Salt Lake City will continue to participate in litigation which endangers the equal rights of any people in our community. Everyone should know, that if you do business in our city, you do business with everyone,” she wrote.

The same day, Equality Utah Executive Director, Troy Williams, told The Salt Lake Tribune, “Now more than ever, we need comprehensive federal and state nondiscrimination laws that protect all Americans,” he said, adding that “Equality Utah looks forward to working again with the Utah Legislature to pass a comprehensive public accommodations law in 2019.”

Salt Lake Councilman Derek Kitchen told FOX 13 he intended to push forward with an ordinance that would prohibit businesses from denying services to LGBTQ people. The ordinance drafting has been on hold while the Masterpiece case was pending.

Scott Lemieux, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington, wrote an op-ed saying, “The ruling that Colorado violated the rights of a man who refused to bake a cake for customers based on their sexual orientation had explicitly limited applicability and a basis of the peculiarities of the case.

“Nonetheless, it presents a serious risk of undermining civil rights law in the name of religious freedom, especially given that it invites yet further suits for the court to consider, and will be interpreted by federal courts that Trump is making significantly more conservative through his appointments.

“It is possible that this decision was a result of an unusual set of facts and will not have a great deal of significance going forward. But …. there’s also the possibility that this apparently narrow ruling will help conservative courts significantly undermine the enforcement of critical civil rights statutes in future cases brought by the religious right.”

Last year, along with some other religious organizations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints signed an amicus curiae brief filed by the Virginia-based Christian Legal Society on behalf of the baker.

It asked the justices to consider the First Amendment rights of deeply religious Americans. While acknowledging the legal right of same-sex couples to marry, it also noted many people of faith steadfastly believe that providing services for a gay wedding betrays their religious views.

And obviously, the church weighed in on the SCOTUS ruling saying in a statement: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints welcomes today’s Supreme Court decision. The nation’s laws can protect both religious liberty and the rights of LGBT citizens. That is the meaning of fairness for all.”

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