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Fifty years ago this week, the Supreme Court issued one of its fastest rulings ever in a landmark case, Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises. Piggie Park, a small barbeque chain which is still open today, wanted the right to refuse service to African American customers. The owner, a segregationist, claimed that the Civil Rights Act violated his religious freedom.

The Supreme Court delivered a resounding rebuke of the barbeque chain on March 18, 1968, definitively ruling that restaurant could no longer discriminate.

Now, the nation awaits a decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which a Colorado bakery that discriminated against a gay couple in violation of Colorado law is claiming it should be exempt from the state’s nondiscrimination law due to the religious beliefs of its owner.

Sound familiar? That’s because it is.


Piggie Park wasn’t just about barbeque. And Masterpiece isn’t just about cake.

A win for the bakery in Masterpiece threatens the historic legacy of the Piggie Park decision and could take us back to a shameful era in our nation’s history, an era where businesses could claim a right to discriminate as they see fit. The stakes of this case couldn’t be higher—not just for LGBT people, but for people of color, minority faiths, people with disabilities, and women. Because if a bakery can discriminate against same-sex couples, it won’t stop with bakeries, or with same-sex couples.

Businesses and their owners have a right to their religious beliefs—but that freedom shouldn’t give businesses a license to discriminate.

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