WASHINGTON — The upcoming Supreme Court argument about a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple makes some civil rights lawyers think of South Carolina’s Piggie Park barbecue.
When two African-Americans parked their car at a Piggie Park drive-in in August 1964 in Columbia, S.C., the waitress who came out to serve them turned back once she saw they were black and didn’t take their order.
In the civil rights lawsuit that followed, Piggie Park owner Maurice Bessinger justified the refusal to serve black customers based on his religious belief opposing “any integration of the races whatsoever.”
Federal judges had little trouble dismissing Bessinger’s claim.
Fifty years later, civil rights lawyers are citing Bessinger’s case in support of Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple who were turned away by Colorado baker Jack Phillips, giving rise to the high court case that will be argued tomorrow.
“The logic of Piggie Park and other precedents overwhelmingly rejecting religious justifications for racial discrimination apply squarely to the context of LGBTQ discrimination,” the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a Supreme Court brief. The fund also represented the people who sued Piggie Park.
Both cases involve laws intended to prevent discrimination by private businesses that open their doors to the public. In the case of Piggie Park, the law was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bake shop case involves the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits businesses from refusing to sell their goods to people on the basis of sexual orientation, among other things.
As the case has come to the justices, the focus is on Phillips’ speech rights, not his religious beliefs. As a cake artist, he claims a right not to say something with which he disagrees.
Phillips’ lawyers also say the baker’s issue is not with gay people, but rather same-sex marriage. He will sell any pre-made goods to anyone who walks in the store, lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Phillips, said. He also would make a cake celebrating “a marriage between a man and a woman even if one or both spouses identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual,” his lawyers wrote....Read more