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Editorial: Justices torn over civil rights issue

Paladin staff

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by Emily Schoeppner

A staff editorial is the opinion of the Kapaun Mt. Carmel Paladin newsmagazine staff. The intent is to state an opinion related to a news story and make suggestions for change or compliment something.
When same-sex couple David Mullins and Charlie Craig walked into a Colorado bakery in 2012, they did not expect owner Jack Phillips to deny them a custom wedding cake. But that happened, spurring a controversial case that has led to a showdown between gay rights and religious freedom, according to The New York Times.
For the past six years, the topic has debated whether the case is a legal or a moral issue. On Dec. 5, the case was argued before the Supreme Court.
In 2012, the couple sued Phillips in the lower courts under Article 24, Part 6 of the 2016 Colorado Revised Statutes which states, “It is a discriminatory practice and unlawful for a person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin or ancestry…”
The couple won the case; however, Phillips argued that his refusal was due to his religious beliefs and appealed the decision, citing the First Amendment right to free speech and the free exercise of religion. Phillips said his cakes are his artistic expression, and he should not be forced to express ideas that he opposes.
The justices of the court are torn. Some question whether people could refuse to provide goods and services for same-sex marriages; others consider if artists can be required to express offensive ideas.
Phillips makes a good case that as an artist, self-expression is important in his work. However, this does not give him the right to refuse service to people protected under an anti-discrimination law, which would set a dangerous precedent, allowing business owners to deny goods or products to anyone who might reject their personal beliefs, and could undo decades of progress in the arena of civil rights.
There are laws that protect this couple, including the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution which states, “Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Thus the separation of church and state, a conflict between the law and religious belief.
Legally, the best act would have been for Phillips to kindly bake the couple their cake since Colorado’s law says to treat every customer equally. Morally, the issue is trickier. Both sides present valid arguments. People on both sides are entitled to respect. Now the decision rests with the Supreme Court.

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Editorial: Justices torn over civil rights issue