+
More

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."


[rebelmouse-image 19478303 dam="1" original_size="750x403" caption="Image from Brandon Rook/YouTube." expand=1]Image from Brandon Rook/YouTube.

In the wake of this week's Masterpiece CakeshopSCOTUS 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.

Pedro Pascal and Bowen Yang can't keep a straight face as Ego Nwodim tries to cut her steak.

Most episodes of “Saturday Night Live” are scheduled so the funnier bits go first and the riskier, oddball sketches appear towards the end, in case they have to be cut for time. But on the February 4 episode featuring host Pedro Pascal (“The Mandalorian,” “The Last of Us”), the final sketch, “Lisa from Temecula,” was probably the most memorable of the night.

That’s high praise because it was a strong episode, with a funny “Last of Us” parody featuring the Super Mario Brothers and a sketch where Pascal played a protective mother.

Keep ReadingShow less
AMC Theaters/Youtube, Variety/Twitter

AMC announced that it would be implementing a new three-tier ticketing system.

AMC Theaters, America’s largest movie theater chain, announced on Feb 6 that it will be adopting different ticket prices based on seat location.

Moviegoers will have three tiers to choose from based on sightline of the movie screen—Preferred Sightline, set in the middle at the highest price point, Value Sightline, set in the front of the auditorium at the lowest price, and Standard Sightline, which is basically everything else (including the back seats, which are perhaps the most commonly picked) set at the traditional cost of a ticket.

In other words…heartbreak will feel more expensive in a place like this…or less, depending on where you sit



The company’s announcement was met with both criticism and approval. While some feel the move follows a well-established business model, others have found it to be taking away a valued aspect of the moviegoing experience.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by alevision.co on Unsplash/ @camerconstewart_uk/Instagram

"Sometimes it pays to learn a language!"

It feels safe to assume that if money were no object, people would always choose to travel business class over economy. After all, who doesn’t want a fast check-in, fancy food and drink choices and more of that sweet, spacious legroom?

However, at anywhere between four to ten times the price of a regular economy ticket, this style of traveling remains a fantasy for many who simply can’t afford it.

Luckily, thanks to one man’s clever travel hack, that fantasy might be more achievable than we realize.

Cameron Stewart, a British photojournalist and camera operator, recently shared how he was able to score business class tickets at a fraction of the price, simply by switching the website language from English to Spanish.
Keep ReadingShow less
via Pexels

A mother puts a fresh diaper on her baby.

Scientists at Penn State University have devised a “smart diaper” that alerts parents when their baby is wet. The diaper is made of paper, treated with sodium chloride (salt) and has a circuit board drawn with a pencil.

When the humidity level rises in the diaper, the graphite and the urine are absorbed by the paper and it turns on a sensor powered by a small lithium battery. The sensor then sets the alarm on an app that parents download onto their phones.

“The hydration sensor is highly sensitive to changes in humidity and provides accurate readings over a wide range of relative humidity levels, from 5.6% to 90%,” the researchers at Penn State said in a statement.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Kelly Clarkson and Pink's gorgeous unplugged 'What About Us?' duet came with a timely​ message

"We're not listening to each other right now. And it's so loud, and so gross, and so angry…"

Pink and Kelly Clarkson teamed up for a sweet acoustic version of "What About Us?"

Pink and Kelly Clarkson are both known for having powerhouse voices that can belt at incredible ranges but also soften for a sweet ballad. Put the two of them together, and…well, dang.

On Feb 6, Clarkson featured Pink on her daytime talk show, in which she often sings with musical guests. The two superstars sang several acoustic duets with pitch-perfect harmonies, prompting fans of both artists to clamor for a collaborative album.

One song they sang together was Pink's "What About Us?" Pink previously described the song to The Sun in 2017: "The world in general is a really scary place full of beautiful people. Humans are resilient and there's a lot of wonderful—like I said in the song—'billions of beautiful hearts' and there are bad eggs in every group. And they make it really hard for the rest of us."

In the intro to their duet, Clarkson asked Pink about the impetus behind her writing the song.

"We're not listening to each other right now. And it's so loud, and so gross, and so angry and people are being forgotten," Pink shared. "People are being counted out and their rights are being trampled on just because a group of people doesn't believe in them."

"Like, I don't understand how so many people in this world are discounted because one group of people decided they don't like that," she continued. "And I won't—I won't have it. One of the most beautiful things that my dad taught me was that my voice matters and I can make a difference, and I will."

The lyrics of the song seem to address the political leaders and decision-makers who hold people's lives in their hands as they pull the levers of power. It's a beautiful song with an important message wrapped up in gorgeous two-part harmony.

Enjoy:

Pop Culture

Keanu Reeves shocks a small-town pub by stopping in for a pint and taking photos with the staff

“So today we had a surprise visitor for lunch. What a lovely man he was, too."

Keanu Reeves in São Paulo, Brazil, 2019.

Keanu Reeves has a reputation as one of Hollywood’s nicest celebrities. Recently, he cheered up an 80-year-old fan who had a crush on him by calling her on the phone. He’s also bought an ice cream cone for a fan to give an autograph on the receipt and crashed a wedding to take photos with the bride and groom.

He’s also an incredible humanitarian who gave up a big chunk of his money from "The Matrix" to a cancer charity.

The “John Wick” star was his usual gracious self over the weekend when on Saturday, February 4, he and a friend walked into The Robin Hood pub in Tring, Hertfordshire, about 30 miles outside of London.

Keep ReadingShow less