State officials, leaders in Oxford react to Supreme Court decision

Posted on Jun 14 2018 - 8:03am by Taylor Vance and Suad Patton-Bey

The United States Supreme Court issued a 7-2 ruling on June 4 in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to design and bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The ruling issued a narrow ruling in the case and did not address the issue of whether businesses owners can choose to deny service to members of the LGBTQ community under the First Amendment.

Instead, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion addresses how the Colorado Civil Rights Commission unfairly targeted the owner of the bakery.

“When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires,” Kennedy wrote. “Given all these considerations…the Commission’s actions here violated the Free Exercise Clause; and its order must be set aside.”

The ruling did not grant an open invitation for businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community, but, instead, reaffirmed gay rights protections under the Constitution.

“Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,” Kennedy wrote. “For that reason the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights.”

American Civil Liberties Union activists demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court, Monday, June 4, 2018 in Washington. The Supreme Court has ruled for a Colorado baker who wouldn’t make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in a limited decision that leaves for another day the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gay and lesbian people. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Both of Mississippi’s U.S. Senators, Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and Roger Wicker (R), agreed with the Court’s decision and said the decision was a great win for religious liberty.

“Religious freedom is a founding tenet of our Constitution,” Hyde-Smith said. “I’m pleased that on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the Supreme Court has taken another step to protect the rights of those who live their religious beliefs.”

Wicker also agreed with the Court’s decision, but said the Court can go even further to grant citizens protection for religious liberty

“Today, the Supreme Court made the right call,” Wicker said. “The First Amendment and equal protection under the law apply to all citizens – including Christians. The court should go further to make sure no American is forced to choose between violating the law or violating his or her religious beliefs.”

State Rep. Jay Hughes (D-Oxford) said he also agreed with the Court’s decision, but said the ruling doesn’t anything to do with religious freedom.

“If you look at the Court’s ruling, the Court only looked at the narrow scope of the facts pertaining to this case,” Hughes said. “This was not a broad decision, and two liberal justices on the court voted in favor of the decision.”

Hughes said the Court only ruled the baker was unfairly targeted by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the Court reaffirmed LGBTQ rights.

John Currence, owner of Big Bad Breakfast; City Grocery; Snackbar and Boure restaurants in Oxford, has long been a vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights and said the ruling doesn’t change anything about how his restaurants will be run. He said his restaurants will still be welcoming and accepting of everyone.

“Who cares what religion someone else practices or what their sexual orientation is or what the color of their skin is?” Currence said. “We are all the same genus species and deserving of the same basic respect, love and human rights as the next person.”

Currence also said he is tired of religion being used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

“I am tired of my religion being used as justification for hatred and exclusion when the central message is exactly the opposite of what the most ‘fervent’ believers would want you to believe,” Currence said. “The same people who preach intolerance of the LGBTQ community have no interest in examining the rest of the Old Testament law and seeing how guilty they are of violating God’s word. It’s disgusting.”

Currence also said the ideas of a restaurant and the dinner table is to be welcoming of people and to have discussions to understand each other.

He also said the issue of LGBTQ rights and religious freedom is not exclusive to the food industry because photographers have refused service to people too, but restaurants just have a huge grassroots organization.  

“It is a massive industry and when it mobilizes, it is loud,” Currence said. “Dignity, decency and decorum have melted away allowing an explosion of bile and venom. We are being encouraged to divide rather than unite. Our worst fears are being preyed upon and people are responding accordingly. Worst of all, truth has been dismissed with simple denial and intellectualism has been villainized in favor of lazy, unresearched mud-slinging.

Ole Miss College Democrats president Jaz Brisack disagreed with the Court’s decision entirely and said the ruling allowed for people to discriminate.

“If you can discriminate against some people, then you can discriminate against all people.” Brisack said. “As Fannie Lou Hamer said, ‘Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.’ The decision is a denial of basic human rights.”

Ya Ya’s Frozen Yogurt manager Amanda Hawkins said she is conflicted about the ruling and can see both sides of the issue.

“I am not going to turn anybody down for service”, Hawkins said. “On the other hand, it should be (the owners’) decision who they want to make a cake for and and who they don’t want to.”