This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. At first glance, the decision looks like a win for homophobic business owners—a green light to refuse any customers based on their sexual orientation. But justices instead dodged the major constitutional decision hanging over the court, and specifically rejected the way a Colorado civil rights board treated baker Jack Phillips, arguing the board was hostile to Phillips due to his religious beliefs.
The court did not rule on the constitutionality of banning LGBTQ customers. It's a point that Mat dos Santos, Legal Director for ACLU of Oregon, really wants Oregonians to understand.
"People are saying this gives businesses the right to turn away LGBT people. It doesn't," dos Santos said in a press conference this afternoon. "There's no doubt that the baker and the Trump Administration wanted the court to say they had constitutional right to discriminate. But today's ruling... affirms that businesses open to the public are open to all."
Dos Santos joined Basic Rights Oregon, city officials, and members of the LGBTQ community at Terry Schrunk Plaza this afternoon to affirm that the Supreme Court decision won't negatively affect Oregonian's civil rights.
Oregon is in the midst of its own cake-related discrimination battle. In December, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the state's decision to fine Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a Portland bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple in 2013. The state ruled the bakery owners had violated Oregon's anti-discrimination law. Those owners have since appealed the ruling.
Dos Santos said this morning's Supreme Court ruling won't have any effect on the Sweet Cakes case, since the scope of the ruling is so narrow.
LGBTQ advocates are more concerned about local business owners misunderstanding today's decision.
"I fear this may embolden businesses to want to discriminate against LGBT customers," said Bryan Steelman, owner of Por Que No, at the press conference. "Businesses in Oregon have the responsibility to prove that discrimination is not okay."
Mayor Ted Wheeler echoed dos Santos, reiterating that the ruling hasn't changed Portland's anti-discrimination laws. "There's no place for discrimination in Portland. This is simply how we do business," he said. He asked the crowd if they liked Portland City Hall's new decor—giant rainbow flags hanging in the building's front windows (they cheered in response).
Wheeler was joined by City Comissioner Amanda Fritz, who said she had a cold, but left her house this morning to join in the press conference. "Basic rights are basis rights," she said "This fight isn't over yet. And in the meantime, it's important that everyone shows up. This is about all of us."