U.S. Supreme Court to address so-called "religious exemptions" debate

NEW YORK – Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD – the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, released the following statement after the United States Supreme Court today announced that it will take up the case that addresses whether an American can use so-called “religious exemptions” as an excuse to discriminate against other Americans, including the LGBTQ community. This is an appeal to the Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case where a bakery shop refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. The couple sued and won prior to this appeal to the United States Supreme Court. 

"The weight of this case is about more than a wedding cake – this decision could have devastating long-term ramifications on the rights of LGBTQ Americans around employment, housing, and public accommodations in their communities and across the entire nation,” said Sarah Kate Ellis. “Using religion as a weapon to harm others flies in the face of American values and is just an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people because of who they are. At a time when a majority of Americans do not support such harmful laws, LGBTQ and fair-minded Americans must make their voices heard as this case moves to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Just last week, a study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that over a majority of Americans oppose anti-LGBTQ discriminatory laws. Close to sixty-one percent of Americans oppose allowing small business owners to refuse to provide products or services to LGBTQ people on religious grounds with only 50% of evangelical Protestants, 42% of Hispanic Protestants, and 25% of Black Protestants voicing support of these anti-LGBTQ measures.

Since marriage equality was made law nationwide by the United States Supreme Court two years ago, anti-LGBTQ activists have been using religion as a weapon to harm LGBTQ Americans across the nation. Vice President Mike Pence enacted the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” during his tenure as Governor of Indiana and gave businesses the right to deny LGBTQ Hoosiers housing, employment, and public accommodations. One week later, he was forced to revise the law after an outcry from businesses leaders, people of faith, and Hoosiers. These ‘religious exemptions’ continue to be written into law across the nation. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed an anti-LGBTQ adoption law which allows adoption agencies to deny LGBTQ families the right to adopt a child. Further, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week ended an injunction on Mississippi’s HB 1523, prompting the state to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, and public accommodations across the state.