Anger and Pride Go Together: Christians, Wedding Cakes, and the Supreme Court

On this, the first Monday in Pride Month 2018, I woke up to find out that the Supreme Court had flipped the bird to queer communites by ruling in favor of the Christian bakery that refused a gay couple. I spent yesterday going back and forth from the bathroom while dealing with a massive upset stomach, and the Supremes’ decision makes that look like the highlight of my week.

What I really find upsetting is not the decision itself, but the way that people in my social media feeds are responding to it. A lot of the reactions amount to queers and progressives throwing up their hands and going, “Welp, we’re doomed. This is the beginning of Gilead.”

Things like this ruling shouldn’t be an excuse to surrender; they should be seen as a call to action, especially at the beginning of Pride Month. This is a month when we commemorate transgender women and sex workers throwing bricks at the cops, even if we sometimes forget that as we watch Budweiser floats with muscled cis-boys in their twenties roll by.

I understand the urge to soak in despair. I do it often myself, and the trauma of November, 2016 has been fucking with my ability to write blog pieces, meet work deadlines, and function in everyday life ever since. When the main response from my social media networks is repeated declarations of defeat, that’s another anchor wrapped around my ankles. I have a lot of those voices going on in my brain already. What’s allowed me to survive since November, 2016 is seeing and hearing the anger of others. That’s what keeps me from sinking into despair, apathy, and maybe even suicide. The old sexist saying has a certain truth to it in this case: You are really fucking beautiful when you’re angry.

I don’t know how this whole Trump regime will wind up. But I know that if we declare every single action a successful coup, the end of Democracy, the inevitable triumph of Fascism, then we go down without a fight.

Today’s ruling should be thought of instead as reinforcing our will to fight. Tomorrow is primary day in California, and you can bet your ass that this is going to be on my mind when I vote. But at the same time, voting isn’t enough. Voting has never been enough.

I think that part of the despair comes from a lot of lefties believing that all we have to do is get the right people in office or on the courts, and they’ll take care of things for us. Bullshit. For those of you dreaming of the Revolution, that’s not going to be enough, either. No matter who’s in office, no matter whether we stay capitalist or go full-blown egalitarian socialist, the existence of justice will always be contingent on people speaking up and demanding it.

This ruling is not a reason for despair. It is a reason for anger and activism. As Ijeoma Oluo said on her Twitter feed today:

Pride month, right? If you thought the battle for LGBTQ rights ended with marriage equality, this is one of the hundreds of ways you were wrong. This fucking country.

There is no excuse for not actively resisting this administration. None.

There’s a lot of ways to resist: For one, don’t let anyone around you think that excluding queers from public space on the basis of “religious freedom” is in any sense a legitimate “difference of opinion.” Also, vote and keep contacting your reps after the election, especially when they’re going the wrong way. One of the most dangerous things we can do is let people — whether in office or not — think that this is okay.

If you’re in San Francisco or the area, you might want to consider coming to the Godless Perverts Social Club tomorrow night. We’ll be discussing what atheist movements can learn from queer resistance movements. The topic seems horiffically apropos.

Godless Perverts Social Club: June 5 - What Queer Resistance Can Teach Atheists

A Quick Reality Check: How Bad is the Ruling?

Legally, it’s not that bad. It’s a very narrow ruling that focuses on procedural matters. The NPR story linked above says this:

In a case brought by a Colorado baker, the court ruled by a 7-2 vote that he did not get a fair hearing on his complaint because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated a hostility to religion in its treatment of his case.

Writing for the case, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that while it is unexceptional that Colorado law “can protect gay persons in acquiring products and services on the same terms and conditions that are offered to other members of the public, the law must be applied in a manner that is neutral toward religion.”

Vox has this to say:

What went wrong here, then, is the process. It’s not that Phillips should, in theory, be allowed to cite his religion to freely discriminate. It’s that the way the Colorado Civil Rights Commission concluded that Phillips had illegally discriminated was very poorly handled.

That’s not to say that this is a total victory for LGBTQ advocates. They, after all, wanted Phillips to lose. And the fact he didn’t lose may signal that businesses like Phillips’s that want to discriminate can still win in courtrooms.

Still, this ruling is narrow, even if it was decided on a 7-2 margin: It doesn’t set a precedent that broadly allows anti-LGBTQ discrimination; it only hands Phillips a victory narrowed to his business. And that’s far from what many on Phillips’s side hoped for.

And The National Center for Lesbian Rights issued this statement:

WASHINGTON, D.C.—National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Legal Director Shannon Minter issued the following statement in response:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop is a narrow, fact-based decision that does not break any new constitutional ground or create any new exemptions to anti-discrimination laws. The Court reversed the state court decision only because it found that the record in this case indicated that the Colorado Commission’s deliberations were tainted by anti-religious hostility. Nothing in the Court’s decision would require or permit the Commission to have reached a different substantive result in protecting the LGBTQ community from discrimination.

Today’s decision leaves intact the longstanding principle that states can require businesses open to the public to serve everyone, even when some businesses believe that doing so violates their religious beliefs.”

In short, the ruling is fucked up, but nowhere near as fucked up as it could have been. Where it’s a disaster is in the realm of propaganda. It’s certainly going to embolden the “family values” crowd to claim that they have a right to push LGBT folk out of public bathrooms, out of schools, and forbid them from adopting children.

We have to let them know that we don’t accept this, any of it. For this Pride Month, get angry, whether it’s for your own sake or that of your friends. Or simply because you love the idea of democracy that allows us all to thrive.

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Anger and Pride Go Together: Christians, Wedding Cakes, and the Supreme Court
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