Concerns Grow for LGBTQ+ Advocates Following Supreme Court Ruling

by Madison Thomas
LGBTQ+ discrimination

A recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, granting a Colorado Christian graphic artist the right to reject working with same-sex couples, has raised apprehension among LGBTQIA+ individuals nationwide, who are worried about the potential broader implications of this decision.

The conservative majority of the high court sided with Lorie Smith, a wedding website designer catering to heterosexual couples, who argued that a ruling against her would force artists in various fields, such as writers, painters, and musicians, to create work that contradicts their beliefs. Critics warned that a victory for Smith would set a precedent for a range of businesses to practice discrimination, refusing service to customers based on race, religion, interracial or interfaith relationships, or immigration status.

Dallas Lyn Miller-Downes, an activist and visual artist based in Portland, Oregon, expressed concern about the direction society is heading. “We’re entering a strange territory as a society. We’re starting to act as the ‘Morality Police,’ and that’s not true freedom,” Miller-Downes said. “What worries me is that this goes beyond art. Where do we draw the line?”

In a dissenting opinion, one of the court’s liberal justices argued that the ruling effectively relegates gays and lesbians to second-class status and opens the door to further discrimination.

In Topeka, Kansas, where a transgender rights rally took place, Kirby Evers, a 31-year-old resident of Lawrence who identifies as bisexual, commented that the ruling would likely encourage people to openly display rudeness and use derogatory language, particularly against transgender individuals. Evers criticized the Supreme Court, claiming it had been “compromised by fascists” and expressing concern about the potential erosion of constitutional principles.

He warned, “People within the LGBTQ community should be fearful of this.”

Miller-Downes believed that this ruling adds to the mounting evidence of art being weaponized against the queer community, pointing to instances of drag artists being banned in some regions and the risk of LGBTQ+ customers being barred from artistic businesses in others.

“Art should inspire, heal, and initiate conversations. We should be known for how we love, not for who we exclude. That’s a moral stance I can stand behind as both a Christian and an artist,” Miller-Downes asserted. “As a society, we need to celebrate businesses owned by marginalized individuals, so that other marginalized people, including queer individuals, know where to seek support.”

Legal analysts on both sides of the issue have stated that the ruling has a narrow scope and will not apply to most businesses. Jennifer C. Pizer, the chief legal officer for Lambda Legal, clarified that the decision specifically pertains to businesses that create original artwork and engage in pure speech, providing such work as limited commissions.

However, Pizer expressed concerns that the ruling perpetuates the dangerous rhetoric of the court’s majority, aiming to revert the country back to the social and legal norms of the nineteenth century.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director at Human Rights Campaign, emphasized that the ruling does not dismantle public accommodations laws protecting individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity in 22 states. She stated that these states can still enforce their nondiscrimination laws in terms of employment, housing, and the purchase of non-customizable goods. For instance, someone preparing for a same-sex marriage could still purchase a wedding gown customized with specific colors.

Nevertheless, Warbelow warned that the ruling opens the door for businesses to potentially discriminate against individuals for reasons other than sexual orientation, such as religious beliefs.

The ruling was welcomed by many conservative religious leaders, including Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy wing, who argued that government should not compel individuals to speak or create things against their beliefs.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an organization advocating for greater LGBTQ+ acceptance in the Catholic Church, deemed the decision dangerous, as it allows religious beliefs to be exploited for discriminatory purposes.

Christine Zuba, a transgender woman from Blackwood, New Jersey, actively involved in promoting acceptance of trans people within the Catholic Church, found the ruling “extremely disappointing and concerning.” She criticized the justices for their naivety in thinking that the decision would not lead to discrimination against other marginalized groups.

While some small businesses may leverage the ruling to deny service to certain customers, it is important for them to consider the potential consequences, warned Gene Marks, owner of The Marks Group, a small business consulting firm in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Marks emphasized that refusing customers based on their differences or religious beliefs could result in not only losing revenue from those customers but also from their social circles and communities. Additionally, such actions could lead to negative publicity regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Contributing to this story: Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, New Jersey; John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas; David Crary and Mae Anderson in New York; Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; Jessica Gresko in Washington; and Boone in Boise, Idaho.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about LGBTQ+ discrimination

What was the Supreme Court ruling about?

The Supreme Court ruling pertained to a Colorado Christian graphic artist who was granted the right to refuse working with same-sex couples based on her religious beliefs.

What are the concerns raised by LGBTQ+ advocates?

LGBTQ+ advocates are worried that this ruling could have broader implications, potentially leading to discrimination against other marginalized groups based on race, religion, or other factors.

How does this ruling impact artists?

The ruling raises concerns among artists that it may force them to create work that contradicts their beliefs, stifling artistic expression and potentially leading to discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

Will this ruling affect businesses beyond the art industry?

There is concern that this ruling could set a precedent for various businesses to discriminate against customers based on factors such as race, religion, or immigration status, extending beyond the art industry.

Are there any protections in place for LGBTQ+ individuals?

Public accommodations laws in 22 states still protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but the ruling opens the possibility for businesses to discriminate based on other reasons, such as religious beliefs.

What are the potential consequences for businesses that choose to discriminate?

While businesses may have the right to refuse service, there may be repercussions such as loss of revenue not only from the affected customers but also from their social circles and communities. Negative publicity could also arise regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

More about LGBTQ+ discrimination

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equalityforall July 1, 2023 - 11:56 am

LGBTQ+ rights are human rights! it’s disheartening to see the Supreme Court ruling in favor of discrimination. we must continue to fight for equality, justice, and the right for everyone to be treated with dignity and respect. love is love, and it should be celebrated, not restricted.

free_spirit July 1, 2023 - 6:03 pm

seriously, what happened to freedom and acceptance? everyone should be able to express themselves and love who they want without fear of discrimination. this ruling is so disappointing and could have far-reaching consequences. let’s stand together and fight for equality!

user123 July 1, 2023 - 7:11 pm

this supreme court rUling is bad, like so bad! it’s crazy how they’re allowing this artist to refuse work for same-sex couples. lgbtq+ advocates are right to be worried, who knows where this could lead??

artlover22 July 1, 2023 - 8:39 pm

omg! i can’t believe they’re saying this ruling is narrow and won’t affect most businesses. like, discrimination is discrimination, and it’s just wrong! LGBTQ+ people deserve equal rights and protection. this is a step backward.

wordsmith11 July 2, 2023 - 2:22 am

as an artist, this ruling sends chills down my spine. art should be about inclusivity, not exclusion. it’s sad to see how some use their religious beliefs to justify discrimination. let’s celebrate diversity and spread love through our creations, not hate.


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