SCOTUS' wedding cake decision is emboldening hate. Here's what to do about it.

In 2015, Jeff Amyx made national headlines when he hung a "No Gays Allowed" sign outside his hardware store.

At the time, he was upset with the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges marriage equality ruling. "It goes against my religion and what I believe. I'll never accept it," he told USA Today, on his decision to ban gay people from shopping at his store.

Within a few days, in response to backlash, the sign came down in favor of one that said, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who would violate our rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion."


Image from Brandon Rook/YouTube.

In the wake of this week's Masterpiece Cakeshop SCOTUS ruling, Amyx felt emboldened to put the "No Gays Allowed" sign back up.

In an interview with WBIR in Tennessee, Amyx called the ruling in favor of a baker who refused to sell a cake to a gay couple a "ray of sunshine."

Though the ruling — which was decided on procedural technicalities involving the Colorado Civil Rights Division's investigation — doesn't actually address whether stores are allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ people, some, like Amyx, appear to view the decision as encouragement to find out what the legal limits actually are.

It's worth remembering that U.S. solicitor general Noel Francisco, arguing on behalf of the federal government in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop, suggested that stores should be exempt from anti-discrimination laws and be allowed to post "No Gays Allowed" signs. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders agreed at the time.

While some downplayed the Masterpiece case because a wedding cake seemed like such a specific example, Amyx and others are showing just how far the "religious liberty" argument could go.

High school teacher John Kluge recently claimed it is against his religious beliefs to refer to transgender students by a name other than the one they were given at birth. "I'm being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that's a dangerous lifestyle," he told IndyStar.

He was fired for refusing to follow that simple rule, but plans to appeal on the grounds that his religious beliefs give him the right to discriminate against those students.

Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

Responding to a discussion about the Masterpiece decision on Facebook, South Dakota Rep. Michael Clark said that religious beliefs should exempt business owners from all sorts of non-discrimination protections.

Asked whether he'd agree that someone should be allowed to ban people of color from a store based on religious views, Clark said, "He should have the opportunity to run his business the way he wants. If he wants to turn away people of color, then that [is] his choice."

He later walked back this statement.

The right to practice and observe religion is an essential part of American life, but it cannot be a "get out of jail free" card.

Right now, it's LGBTQ people who are being discriminated against under the justification of "religious freedom," but we've seen this play out before.

Interestingly, it was a statement from a commissioner in the Masterpiece case that both explained the past use of ad hoc religious beliefs to justify horrific actions and helped hand the case to the plaintiffs:

"I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting. Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be ... We can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can ... use their religion to hurt others."

The court wasn't too fond of the final line about using religion to excuse blatant discrimination as "one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric." The truth is, however, the commissioner was right: People often do hide behind their religious beliefs — or invent new ones — to justify existing prejudice.

SCOTUS has even ruled on this before. In the 1968 Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises case, SCOTUS heard an argument for a religious exemption from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based on restaurant owner Maurice Bessinger's "religious belief" that races should not mix.

50 years later, it seems absurd that somebody would argue that their religious beliefs should exempt them from race-based protections in civil rights laws; but as history has shown, this is a well-worn tactic that shifts from group to group over time. Courts must recognize that these arguments are frivolous and debase actual religious teachings.

Luckily, there are things we can all do to help out in the fight for justice and equal treatment under the law.

First, financial support to groups like the ACLU and Lambda Legal helps them continue the fight for equality in courts.

You can also find out who your state and local representatives are and let them know that you want to make sure all people are protected under these local laws. One of the only reasons the Masterpiece case made it to SCOTUS was that Colorado has explicit protections for people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Many states don't.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

Finally, contact your state's representatives and senators and ask them to support the passage of the Equality Act, which would end a lot of ambiguity over whether businesses are allowed to discriminate in whom they serve.

It's easy to see stories about people like Amyx and his "No Gays Allowed" sign and feel discouraged about the future, but it's important to remember that those people are in the minority. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 72% of people surveyed around the country don't believe businesses should be allowed to use religious beliefs as an excuse to exclude entire groups of people.

This is good news and should inspire us all to get involved.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.