US Supreme Court asked to properly protect marriage beliefs
Will supporters of real marriage ever be free to live in line with their convictions without harassment from those who disagree?
An important legal victory was won with the Ashers bakery case, where the UK Supreme Court ruled that equality law cannot compel speech or expression, so cannot require those who disagree with same-sex marriage to express support for it, for example, by decorating a cake.
In the US, the Supreme Court has so far declined to give a similar definitive judgment, leaving marriage supporters still enduring harassment and discrimination in some states. Two ‘gay cake’ cases have come before the courts in recent years. In both cases while they have overturned the rulings against the bakeries, they have done so on grounds specific to the case, in particular, bias against the bakers’ beliefs, rather than the general principles of free speech.
As a result, one of the bakeries, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, found that while the penalty of $135,000 imposed on it by a state court in 2015 was reduced in light of the Supreme Court ruling, it was still found to be in breach of discrimination law and fined $30,000 in damages. Because of the crippling nine-year legal fight since the bakery declined the order in 2013, the business went bust some years ago, and has since reopened in another state.
Now, the owners of the business, Melissa and Aaron Klein, are appealing once again to the Supreme Court to have the whole penalty overturned as a violation of their rights owing to the law compelling speech contrary to their convictions.
Will the Supreme Court now take the opportunity to fully address the crucial matter of compelled speech, as the UK Court has done? In his opinion on the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was clear that the Court needed to do so and stop ignoring the issue. At C4M we wish the Kleins all the best with their appeal and hope that it brings about the legal protection for US supporters of real marriage that they clearly need.