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SCOTUS strikes down extreme homophobia–for now


I wanted to put up a photo of Phyllis Young, to show what the face of amorality and hatred looks like. But I couldn’t find one. The notoriously homophobic Christian, who just lost a big case in the U.S. Supreme Court, evidently doesn’t want her mug seen.

The case she lost was Cervelli v. Aloha Bed & Breakfast. The plaintiff, “Cervelli,” is Diane Cervelli and her partner, Taeko Bufford, a Lesbian couple from Long Beach CA. The defendant is Ms. Young, who would not rent a room to the couple at her Aloha Bed & Breakfast, even though they had a reservation, when the two were on vacation in Honolulu. They arrived at the B&B and asked for one bed; Young refused, explaining that “she was uncomfortable reserving a room for lesbians and canceled the reservation.” Evidently, at the Aloha B&B, “Aloha” doesn’t mean “Welcome!” If you’re gay, it means “Get the fuck away.”

The case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear it, upholding the Hawaii Court of Appeals’ earlier decision finding in favor of the Lesbian couple. Young’s attorneys contested that decision. But the Hawaii Court ruled Young had suffered no “due-process or free-exercise violation.” The Court further ordered Young to pay “compensatory…damages, statutory fines, and…attorney fees and costs.”

I hope you have a lot of money, Ms. Young, because you’re going to need it!

We’ve seen this movie before, over and over. Bigoted Christian proprietor of a business blatantly discriminates against law-abiding American citizens. Citizens sue, citing violations of their civil rights. Courts rule in favor of plaintiffs. Rulings are appealed. Eventually, an appeals court reaffirms in favor of plaintiffs.

When will these Christians stop breaking the law? Here in America, we have no official religion, and they don’t get to call the shots. We have a Constitutionally-mandated separation between church and state. Every citizen has his or her rights; every business has the obligation to respect those rights and treat all citizens equally. And yet Christians like Ms. Young keep trying to discriminate.

The magnificent Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund represented Cervelli and Bufford from the start. It argued that “The refusal by a for-profit, commercial business establishment to provide accommodations at a bed and breakfast to a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation” violated “Hawaii’s law prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations.” That law is perfectly clear: “Public accommodations” include “hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts.” “Discrimination” is defined as “deny[ing] a person access to or to treat then unequally in a place of public accommodation because of…” and here, the statute includes “sexual orientation” among the list of protected classes. Nowhere does the law state that a proprietor’s personal religious beliefs provide any kind of exception.

It’s so stupid, isn’t it, for a Christian to feel she can break the law with impunity because her religious beliefs mandate it. What’s the point of having any laws at all, if that’s the case? Anybody can claim having a particular religion and then refuse to serve anyone they hate. Catholic hospitals might reject treating Gay men. Airports might refuse to allow women in hijabs. A Jewish deli might turn away anyone wearing a crucifix. Small-minded clerks in conservative counties might refuse to marry same-sex couples. A Muslim-owned falafel joint might refuse to sell to someone in a Yarmulke. Where would it end?

In chaos and anarchy, which is why we have laws in the first place. This is why Justice is blind: equal protection for all.

Young’s lawyers argued that her “constitutional rights” were being violated by forcing her to rent a room to Lesbians. But what are these alleged “constitutional rights”? Does the Hawaii State Constitution or the U.S. Constitution say anywhere that people can claim “religious convictions” in defiance of duly-passed laws? In filings with Hawaii’s Court of Appeals, Young put her cards on the table in a rather blatant way. “Young stated that she was Catholic. She believes that homosexuality is wrong. She believes that sexual relations between same-sex couples are immoral.” And she expected the Courts to side with these irrational arguments!

The amazing thing is that the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Lesbians. The way things are going with Trump’s appointments, you’d think that no pro-gay ruling could ever be expected from SCOTUS. I guess that even though the Christian Justices on the Court are homophobes, some cases are so egregious that even they have to rule against the bigots. Of course, what happened this time is no guarantee that next time there’s a gay-related case, Roberts, Kavanaugh, Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas—the professed Christians, most of them Catholic—won’t decide that their religious intolerance trumps their oath to uphold the Constitution. The Supreme Court ceased to be a nonpartisan court in Gore v. Bush, and became instead an outlet of the Republican Party’s most conservative wing. They’ve gotten worse since 2001. So the LGBTQ community should understand that Cervelli v. Aloha is only a temporary victory, an aberration. Terrible things are to be expected from this Court, especially if Trump gets another nomination. But let’s hope he doesn’t. Long live the notorious RBG!

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