June 30, 2023

US Supreme Court rules in favour of businesses discriminating against gays

US Supreme Court rules in favour of businesses discriminating against gays

Gender rights activists demonstrate outside the US Supreme Court on June 30, 2023, in Washington, DC. – The court ruled on June 30 that some private businesses can refuse service to same-sex couples for religious reasons, in a landmark erosion of anti-discrimination laws. The court backed the case of a Christian graphic designer from the state of Colorado who said that due to her beliefs she would not make a wedding website for a same-sex couple. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)

One year after its ruling to erase abortion rights, the conservative-dominated US Supreme Court has underscored its determination to push society sharply to the right by scrapping long-established progressive policies.

In three emphatic rulings this week the court banned universities from giving minorities priority in admissions; said some business owners can refuse to serve gay couples on religious grounds; and struck down President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel student debt.

Each saw the court’s six conservative justices under Chief Justice John Roberts flexing their biceps over its three liberals.

Republicans cheered them on as major victories were scored against flagship progressive ideologies — as was also the case in last year’s landmark overturning of abortion rights.

“I have never been prouder of Roberts Court. The Supreme Court is truly standing up for individual constitutional rights and limited government,”  Republican Senator Lindsey Graham declared Friday.

While Biden, a Democrat, was outraged by the rulings handed down by a court heavily influenced by three justices appointed by Donald Trump during his presidency.

“This is not a normal court,” Biden said after the decision on affirmative action in university admissions.

– Victory for religious liberty? –

A day after the court’s affirmative action ruling, on Friday it ruled that a Colorado graphic designer was in her rights to refuse to design a website for a same-sex couple due to her Christian beliefs.

The court rooted its decision in the US Constitution’s guarantee of free speech, saying she could not be forced to create products that effectively forced her to say things she did not agree with.

The decision focused on a limited category of commercial activities, like artists or businesses those creating content, but added to the accumulating decisions by the court in favor of religious Americans projecting their beliefs onto society at large.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley called it a “major victory for free speech and religious liberty.”

For critics, it was a shocking erosion of anti-discrimination laws, opening the door for business owners generally to discriminate against customers who don’t fit their moral or social belief set.

“Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class,” wrote Sonia Sotomayor, a justice on the court’s liberal wing.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the chief executive of the LGBTQ lobby GLAAD, said the decision would “bring harm and stigma” to her community.

The ruling “is yet another example of a Court that is out of touch with the supermajority of Americans,” she said.

– Student debt relief –

In Friday’s second case, the court overruled Biden’s program to cancel more than $400 billion worth of student debt weighing down the lives of millions of lower and middle-income Americans.

The court majority said that given the large sum, Biden had overstepped his powers.

“The question here is not whether something should be done; it is who has the authority to do it,” Roberts wrote, sounding sympathetic to the president’s motives.

Republicans hailed the court siding with their stance that there was no justification for what they considered a politically motivated program.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell called it the “student loan socialism plan” which he said would “pad the pockets” of Biden’s rich supporters.

Democratic Senator Patty Murray riposted that “Biden gave working and middle class borrowers some breathing room with desperately-needed debt relief.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has once again slammed the breaks on critical progress for people across Washington state and our country.”