In 2012 I was planning for my own wedding in North Carolina, the same year that David Mullins and Charlie Craig walked into the Masterpiece Cake shop to order a wedding cake for their reception. In 2012, though I identified as a transgender man, most store clerks saw me as female. Every time I walked through the doors of a business, with my girlfriend, I worried if my fiancé and I would be turned away or treated badly because of who we are. We were so excited to plan our wedding and begin our lives together as a married couple, but I braced myself when walking into a new business. Would I be told by the store employee or owner that they don’t serve my kind here?
When Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop refused to make a wedding cake for David and Charlie, he said that it was his religious beliefs against same-sex marriage preventing him from making the cake. Today the US Supreme “Court reversed the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on concerns unique to the case, but reaffirmed its longstanding rule that states can prevent the harms of discrimination in the marketplace, including against LGBT people.” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU.
As we know, this Masterpiece Cakeshop case wasn’t about cake, but it also wasn’t really about Jesus. I’ve read the Bible, and I can’t find a single place where Jesus turns someone away because of who they are. In fact, Jesus’ ministry was about welcoming people and meeting people where they were. Jesus taught us that we show our love for God by loving our neighbor even when we disagree. As a Christian, I believe in upholding this Golden Rule in life as well as in business.
Unfortunately the lack of protections for LGBTQ people in North Carolina are still in place the same today as they were yesterday. The Supreme Court’s ruling today did not change those laws, though the court did affirm state’s rights to protect people from discrimination, which is a relief. As a transgender man and a native North Carolinian, my fear today is the same as yesterday: that a business owner in my home state could turn me away for who I am based on their religious beliefs. As a Christian, my belief is the same today as it was yesterday: that we are all God’s beloved children, and Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Our work on full inclusion and support for LGBTQ people is far from over. We as an American public, and as Presbyterians, have the opportunity to add our voices to the chorus that turning people away goes against the central message of our faith.
At General Assembly 223 in just a few days, we can support the adoption of 11-04 and 11-15 which call on the PCUSA to advocate for reclaiming the historic meaning of religious freedom and rejecting the idea that religious freedom is a “license for discrimination against any of God’s people, and cannot justify the denial of secular employment or benefits, healthcare, public or commercial services or goods, or parental rights to persons based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression” (11-04). Today’s ruling was not a sweeping win for either anti-LGBTQ opponents or for people who believe in LGBTQ equality. Instead, the SCOTUS ruling was a rallying cry for us to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act to update our country’s laws against discrimination. It’s time for one set of protections for everyone, so that no one can be fired from their job, denied a place to live, or turned away from a business. In the season of Pentecost we are reminded of the power of the Holy Spirit who descends as a dove equipping each one of us to preach the good news of God’s love and welcome for all. Let this decision catalyze our Holy Spirit moment to proclaim a vision of God’s kin-dom where all are welcome, all are beloved, and no one can be turned away for who they are.
P.S. to learn more about the Supreme Court’s ruling and find events or rallies in your area check out: https://www.decisionday.org/