“I hate prejudice, discrimination, and snobbishness of any kind – it always reflects on the person judging and not the person being judged. Everyone should be treated equally.”

Gordon Brown

For nearly a century, successive Administrations championed the expansion of the rights of disenfranchised Americans, whether based on gender, race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.  Beginning in 2017, however, President Trump began turning the clock back, demeaning women and targeting Muslims and non-White immigrants from Latin America and Africa, creating an environment in which discrimination became normalized.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court’s 2017 Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado decision sided with the Cakeshop‘s owner who refused to provide and decorate an wedding cake for a same sex couple; striking down Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act which prohibited; ”a person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation.

This past June the Court’s 303 Creative v. Elenis decision again overruled the Colorado law protecting LGBTQ rights, effectively legitimizing the right of for-profit businesses to discriminate against anyone for any reason, particularly if they’re claiming violations of their First Amendment rights to speech or religion.

While defenders of these decisions were quick to claim both were limited in scope, the discrimination genie is now out of the bottle and suits are already appearing in lower courts challenging state and federal anti-discrimination laws.  Aside from fanning the divisive flames of bigotry, such challenges potentially imperil hard fought for rights most Americans overwhelmingly support.

Applying the Court’s “puzzling” logic and taken to its extremes, medical professionals could refuse treating certain sick or injured patients, government employees could refuse to provide equal public services to all Americans and teachers could refuse teaching aspects of science or history which conflict with their fundamentalist beliefs.

The former president continues to embolden Christian Nationalists, White Supremacists, and others to embrace their bigotry against people who look different, come from different ethnic backgrounds, subscribe to diverse religious beliefs or hold controversial social values. 

America is an increasingly pluralistic and less white nation in which its citizens cherish differing social values and subscribe to many religious faiths, or even reject religion altogether.  While the First Amendment guaranties all individuals have a right to freely exercise their religion, it does not give them the right to impose their religious beliefs on or mistreat those with different value systems. 

If our nation is ever to realize the ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence and truly become a “more perfect union,” its people must be willing to endorse the idea anti-discrimination laws must apply equally to all Americans and replace personal prejudices and bigotry with respect and tolerance of others.