The United States Supreme Court will soon issue a decision as to whether businesses can legally discriminate against LGBT+ customers on religious grounds, in the landmark case Masterpiece Cakeshop vs Colorado Civil Rights Commission. But while the decision may prove epochal, a number of important related lawsuits have advanced through lower courts in recent months, meaning that issues relating to LGBT+ equality will continue to be debated at the highest levels of the American justice system.
These cases center on two main questions. The first is whether sex discrimination laws apply to LGBT+ people; the other is whether businesses can assert religious objections to avoid complying with anti-discrimination measures.
Many analysts believe the outcome of Masterpiece Cakeshop is hard to predict based on how the justices of the Supreme Court behaved during oral arguments in December – but however the case is decided, it will give an indication of where the Court stands on whether exceptions can be made to anti-discrimination laws.
Religious conservatives who believe that anti-discrimination laws restrict the speech rights of religious business owners have been bolstered recently by the restrictive views of the current administration towards LGBT+ rights.
Camilla Taylor, director of litigation at Out Leadership partner organization Lambda Legal, views the cases pending over disputes relating to provision of wedding services as having consequences that could reach far beyond the civil rights of LGBT+ individuals.
“What the religious right is asking for is a new rule specific to same-sex couples that would not only affect same-sex couples but also carve a hole in nondiscrimination laws that could affect all communities,” she said.
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