Young: Colorado — where discrimination still takes the cake
Ryan Summerlin January 2, 2014
Discrimination is a thing of the past. It’s sooo 1964. Right?
So why did a Colorado judge just make a ruling regarding discrimination and wedding cake?
Because discrimination isn’t a thing of the past. It’s soooo 2013.
The Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver was more than willing to take Charlie Craig’s and David Mullins’ money when they ordered a cake last year. However, when the owner found out that the two were legally wed in Massachusetts, and they wanted a celebratory wedding cake, he said, in effect, “Your money’s no good here.”
See? It’s so 2013.
As did the cake shop owner, this discrimination is justified by people who, Bibles in hand, will flip past pages and pages of teachings about love and Golden Rule-living to find one bookmarked line in Leviticus.
Thank goodness for the American Civil Liberties Union. It advocated for the Craig and Mullins before an administrative judge, who ruled against the cake shop. If you set up shop to serve humanity, you had better have good reason to refuse any of its members.
You may say that’s unfair; this is a proprietor’s prerogative. So said the owners of the Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth’s in 1960 when refusing to serve persistent black students. Hence began one of the most amazingly organic chapters of the civil rights era: confrontation-based desegregation of lunch counters.
Something similar is happening in America all those 53 years later. This year four more states legalized same-sex marriage, making the total 13. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to swallow the argument that the Defense of Marriage Act did not violate the 14th Amendment’s equal protection provision.
Oh, Robert Bork, where ye be?
Most Americans don’t remember Bork, but the legal principles for which he stood are worth a trip down memory lane.
When nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1987 to serve on the Supreme Court, he came as a symbol and standard bearer of “strict constructionism.” We can be assured that he would not have sided with the court on gay marriage.
Bork testified that the intent of the 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, was to provide protections for emancipated slaves, and no one else. Not women. Not Latinos. Not the disabled. And certainly not homosexuals.
To use the 14th Amendment to make a protected group out of any other kind of person would be pernicious “judicial activism,” he said, and conservatives said, “Amen.”
The Senate’s refusal to confirm him represented the biggest victory in generations for those who understand, rightly, that the Constitution is a living document.
And so it lives, even when discrimination still goes down for many people like good Kentucky bourbon.
It is worth remembering that many in Congress who had been dragged into the 20th century to support the Civil Rights Act (passed in 1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) at first had no intention of making the latter expansive enough to serve all potential victims of discrimination. Then a guileful Texas congresswoman, Barbara Jordan, obtained wording that protected the rights of Spanish-speaking Hispanics and immigrants of all stripes in the voting booth. The bill required bilingual ballots where necessary. Jordan convinced enough people in Congress that allowing local governments to do otherwise would result in de facto literacy tests.
And strict constructionists wept.
Now, shades of 1964: Congress is debating passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — ENDA, workplace protections for gays, lesbians and the transgendered.
You might say its chance of passage compares to that of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un being named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.
You might say this is so because the House has done nothing whatsoever for three years, so why change?
More likely, it is because pernicious and foul discrimination remains comfort food for many Americans. Yes, in 2013.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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