Editor’s Note: Gavin Grimm is the plaintiff in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, a case challenging his Virginia high school’s bathroom ban. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.
Over the past few years I’ve learned what it means to fight for my right to be treated just like everyone else. When my high school implemented a bathroom ban that forbade me from using the men’s bathroom even though I am a transgender male student, I fought back. My fight took me to the US Supreme Court and still continues today – despite the Court sending my case back to the district court.
I am not alone in this fight. There are people in every community who are standing up for the basic rights that everyone – regardless of orientation or creed – should be able to enjoy.
Two of these people are about to have their case heard by the United States Supreme Court, and the decision could impact the rights of countless LGBTQ Americans. On Tuesday, Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins will stand before the US Supreme Court because a local bakery in their Colorado community discriminated against them on the basis of their sexual orientation. The business refused to sell them the same product that it would have sold a heterosexual couple – a wedding cake. The bakery is arguing that it has a constitutional right to refuse to bake such a cake if it violates the baker’s religious beliefs.
Their case, dubbed Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, shouldn’t fool anyone. It has nothing to do with cake, and everything to do with civil rights.
Charlie and Dave were refused service by the business five years ago, so it’s certainly been a long road for them. I suspect that, like me, they worry every time they enter a public place that they will face discrimination on the basis of who they are.
While my own experience didn’t involve a public business, it was based on the same discriminatory principle: Not treating members of the LGBT community as equals.
Just as Charlie and Dave want people to understand their case isn’t about where they can buy a cake, my case was about more than just a restroom. It was about whether LGBT people have the freedom to exist and live in public life.
Discrimination is not new. Many have felt the pains of its humiliation for centuries before us. Many still know the overwhelming feeling of anxiousness and fear, the uncertainty of whether or not they are able to do something as simple as purchase a baked good or use a restroom without coming under fire.
Put yourself in Charlie and Dave’s shoes, or the shoes of Charlie’s mother Debbie, who was with them when the business owner said he would not serve them. Can you imagine the humiliation she must have felt watching her son go through that experience?
The bakery is arguing for the right to say “only heterosexuals served here.” If they prevail, other businesses could argue they can display signs saying “no transgender people served here,” or any other discriminatory message that conveys the sentiment – “your kind is not welcome.”
Forty-five states and the federal government have laws to protect against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, and national origin. Twenty-one of those states and the District of Columbia, and some federal government agencies, also include sexual orientation in those protections – including Colorado.
Charlie and Dave are heading to the Supreme Court to ensure that discrimination is not written into the Constitution.
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Of course, this case could have consequences for more than just LGBT people. It could impact countless Americans, including women, racial minorities, religious minorities, unwed parents, interracial couples, and so many others. Could a public business owner refuse service to an unwed mother, citing their religious beliefs? Could they deny an interracial couple the same service? The examples go on and on, but the point is, no one should be denied the same service offered to everyone else at a public business because of who they are.
As millions of Americans stood with me during my march to the Supreme Court, I will now stand with Charlie and Dave. No one, including businesses, should have a constitutional right to discriminate against anyone. Businesses that are open to the public should be open to all.