SCOTUS Cake Case Will Have Far-Reaching Social Impact For LGBTQ People, Report Shows

Advocates warn of an already large disconnect between evolving social mores on the one hand, and the persistent public discrimination faced by LGBTQ people.

Members of the LGBTQ community will be watching the Supreme Court closely this spring, when justices are expected to decide whether Colorado baker Jack Phillips was illegally discriminating against a same-sex couple when he refused to prepare a cake for a wedding ceremony he viewed as sacrilegious.

Many queer rights advocates believe the court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission will be the most significant for LGBTQ people since the 2015 landmark ruling on same-sex marriage. What fewer people realize, they say, is just how much the ruling’s impact will resound beyond wedding-related businesses.

A new video released by the Colorado-based independent think tank Movement Advancement Project highlights exactly what’s at stake if the Supreme Court rules in Phillips’ favor. The clip, which can be viewed above, depicts a transgender man being removed from a movie theater after attempting to use the men’s restroom. It’s a nod to controversial “bathroom bills” like North Carolina’s since-overturned House Bill 2, which prohibited trans people from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity, as well as the long lasting implications of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

The video’s release coincides with that of a new Movement Advancement Project report, “LGBT Policy Spotlight: Public Accommodations Nondiscrimination Laws.” The report, in turn, cites 2017 statistics provided by the Center of American Progress, which researchers believe are indicative of a startling disconnect.

While a 2016 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that 72 percent of Americans back anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community, a survey of 1,864 people (857 of which identified as LGBTQ) found that 34 percent said they avoided public places such as stores and restaurants because they’ve experienced discrimination in the past year.

Of that same research group, 49 percent said they’d made specific decisions about where to live, and 47 percent decided where to shop, because of previous brushes with anti-LGBTQ discrimination, according to the report.

Though cases like Phillips’ dominate headlines, the research shows that discrimination “happens in many facets of daily life,” Naomi Goldberg, Movement Advancement Project’s policy and research director, told HuffPost Friday. The Department of Health & Human Services’ establishment of a new agency that could reportedly allow medical practitioners to deny treatment to LGBTQ people on religious and moral grounds is particularly concerning, she said.

“This discrimination isn’t about weddings, but about LGBTQ people’s ability to live their lives ― to go to work and to care for their families,” Goldberg said. “And this discrimination has tangible effects on LGBTQ people.”

Still, the Movement Advancement Project report offered some promising statistics for the LGBTQ community as well. Though laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in public accommodations exist in only 19 states and the District of Columbia, at least 313 cities and counties nationwide had adopted similar legislation at the local level as of last year.

It’s an important reminder, Goldberg said, that “action is needed in communities across the country to stand on the side of fairness” ― and those efforts can have a substantial impact.

“Just because a business serves the public doesn’t mean they share all of their customers’ beliefs,” she said. “And most Americans agree that businesses that serve the public should serve everyone on the same terms.”

To read more about Movement Advancement Project’s “LGBT Policy Spotlight: Public Accommodations Nondiscrimination Laws” report, head here.