The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed an amicus curiae brief [text] with the US Supreme Court Thursday in support of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, which was charged with discrimination for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, citing their religious beliefs against gay marriage. The DOJ stated that a “custom wedding cake is a form of expression” and “forcing [the baker] to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights.” The brief states that the law should be subject to heightened scrutiny because it compels both creation of expression and participation in an expressive event. The brief also notes that at the time of the refusal to make the cake (July 2012), gay marriage was not legal in Colorado, thus showing that Colorado’s law did not advance “a sufficient state interest to override petitioners’ weighty First Amendment interest in declining to create the expression.” The brief calls for the Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeals of Colorado’s decision that stated the petitioners’ acts were discriminatory and the Colorado law was not barred by the First Amendment.
LGBT protections are still highly disputed in the US and many rights groups have raised concerns about the future of LGBT rights within the US since the November elections. In June the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit lifted an injunction on a Mississippi law that critics stated allowed those with “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” to discriminate against LGBT individuals. In May the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal challenging California’s 2012 ban on “gay conversion” therapy. In April the DOJ dropped a federal lawsuit against the state of North Carolina over a bill requiring transgender people to use the public bathroom associated with their birth gender. Also in April the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that LGBT employees were protected from workplace discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
As carried in JURIST on 9.9.17