So, what did we get on Monday? A 7-2 Supreme Court decision that basically says “ we really don't want to rule on this subject yet...in the meantime, good luck!”
The majority decision brief was authored by a centrist on the bench. Essentially, the Court ruled that a state commission is not a law court, and only a court of law can rule on matters of free speech where religion is involved. If this were a television show…we would say that our side lost the case on a technicality. At least that's how I would write it, but I'm not a lawyer. I'm a pissed-off queer girl who expected the highest court to do right. What we got instead was a neatly wrapped excuse to take a pass on social justice.
Much of heterosexual America thinks this is about cake. This is not about cake. THIS IS ABOUT US! Bigotry is not right even when wrapped in a Christian Bible. Bigotry is EVIL!
The Court's narrow-focused decision failed all of us on Monday. Seven justices have now armed those who do not have our best interests in mind with a ready-made legal reason to deny service or assistance that likely will cost lives. Stealing a line from a friend: This was supposed to be fixed around fifty years ago, and this verdict proves America has a long way to go.
But in fairness…didn't we sort of know that the minute the first results from Florida trickled in on that sad November night not long ago? Yeah, the court let is down here...and perhaps it is telling us something too.
We cannot always rely on the courts or political allies to always do the right thing. Much has been accomplished - much is still to be done...especially down here in the land of kudzu. The decision is just another reminder that sometimes we really are on our own...and need each other for protection, and for advocacy.
For us in the South, let's get real. Even when we win this type of case in the end (and trust me...this is going to be Cavs-Warriors, back and forth for a generation...but we will win) you are never going to be able to prove that the other side is openly discriminating even when the law is fully on our side. Bigots are chameleons; they know how to blend in and adapt.
The last thing we want to do down here is to throw those of faith under the bus because some of their cousins are using this as an excuse to be hateful. I saw a meme yesterday; many of you probably did too: “All I'm saying is that I believe Jesus would have baked the damn cake.”
Yup. Same here.
I personally know way too many people who live their lives guided by faith as family and allies. They have taken much crap for being open about it whenever stuff like this happens. Let's not trash what they live by in our justifiable anger over what the bigots clinging to Bibles won in court this week. That's just what the bigots want us to do.
I tend to defer to those who have fought this battle back in the day, and they tell me that this is going to be a long hard slog. We are winning...and have a very long way to go. This decision is a stark reminder of that. It's wrong, very unfair and gives license for people to treat us as second-class citizens. But we will get through it…because those to whom we look to as social justice heroes found ways to do so before. It's not the first time a community has had to deal with bigots clinging to Bibles. We stand in good company here.
So, are you mad as hell and wanting to fight back as I do? Ok, let's fight smart:
- Patronize those who openly support our community and our allies. Deny your money to those who refuse to do so. It's easy for a business to place a “LGBTQ wecome here” sign of some sort on their door. Feel free to politely ask if one is not there.
- Thank those of faith who support us. If your faith, denomination or house of worship refuses to do so...time to move. If they are genuinely scared to do so, gently encourage them (I am in that position too, so I know how that works. Be lovingly persistent…)
- We are not the only community fighting for social justice. Always remember that. If we want allies...we need to be allies. Get involved somehow. If you can come out of a closet, you can cross those other barriers the haters have set up.
- The original Pride was a riot. No, I'm not advocating that… but we need to keep our history in mind. Our liberation movement began with transgender sex workers and people of colour fighting for their lives against legalized brutality. Learn the history, teach your heritage and welcome all those who identify. Don't look down on those who are not as well off or educated as you may be. Don't judge over the number of partners or their profession. Find ways to help and heal...that includes you too. Be family...because we need each other more than ever now.
- Back those who back us: TEP and HRC, politicians who openly support, Police/Fire/EMT’s/Military who unhesitatingly protect, straight people who are not narrow.
Stay proud. You are my family of choice, and I love each and every one of you for that privilege.
We will prevail.
Julie Chase is the pen name for an Out&About Nashville writer and columnist.