Mark Joseph Stern reports in Slate:
“On Thursday afternoon, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Civil Rights Commission, a constitutional challenge to LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws. The DOJ urged the Supreme Court to rule that laws barring businesses from refusing to serve gay couples may violate the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee. Its brief is an exercise in cynical dishonesty, one that’s difficult to read as anything less than politicized bigotry dressed up in inane legalese.
. . . .
Even worse, the brief does not explain why homophobia deserves special respect under the law. The Supreme Court has said that homosexuality is immutable, like race. Why, then, should animus toward same-sex couples be treated differently from animus toward interracial couples? And what about religious bigotry? Can a devout baker refuse to sell a cake to an interfaith couple, and can an atheist one say a Christian can’t buy cupcakes for a christening? Can a sexist baker refuse to serve a female customer? What if his misogyny is derived from religion? And why stop at a cake? Shouldn’t the preparation of other foods qualify as expressive conduct, too? Doesn’t every good or service involve some measure of expressive conduct or association that the First Amendment could theoretically protect?
In its brief, the DOJ implicitly raises all of these questions without answering them because it can’t answer them—not honestly, at least. The reality is that the courts cannot, with any logical coherence or consistency, deny civil rights protections to some groups but not others. Either nondiscrimination law are constitutional or they aren’t. The First Amendment does not grant greater rights to homophobic bakers than racist or sexist ones. Plenty of bigoted business owners wish they could assert a constitutional privilege not to associate with specific groups. If the courts open the door to one, they’ll open the door to all. Shopkeepers do not have a special right to turn away gays from their stores.
The brief strives to avoid this problem because it is, at bottom, a political document. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently gave a speech to ADF thanking the organization for its “important work” defending “religious liberty.” Through Sessions, President Trump is discharging his obligation to appease the bigots in his base. The DOJ’s efforts, however, may prove counterproductive. This brief will delight the court’s reactionaries who favor religious supremacy and disdain gay rights. But it can only estrange Kennedy—who notably, has allowed an LGBTQ nondiscrimination policy to trump a First Amendment claim in the past. Kennedy is always eager to protect the “equal dignity” of same-sex couples; the DOJ now seeks to undermine it. The Trump administration might score political points with this brief, but it won’t win enough votes at the court.
One more thing
The Trump administration poses a unique threat to the rule of law. That’s why Slate has stepped up our legal coverage—watchdogging Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, the Supreme Court, the crackdown on voting rights, and more.”
Under Sessions, the Department of Justice has become purveyor of racism, bigotry, hate, voter suppression, xenophobia, White Nationalism, homophobia, and some incredibly bad and intellectually dishonest lawyering. Gonzo is a disgrace to his position and an insult to American justice. Liz was right. And let’s not forget how she was treated by the GOP when she tried to speak truth about Sessions in the Senate!