One year ago, the Supreme Court was supposed to resolve an epic showdown between LGBTQ victims of discrimination and business owners who ground their prejudices in religious belief. Instead, the court punted, holding in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that states could still enforce their civil rights laws against religious objectors — but only if those states were obsequiously polite towards such lawbreakers.
On Monday, the court appears to have punted again. Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is virtually identical to Masterpiece Cakeshop. It involves another baker who discriminated against a same-sex couple, and who claims that their religion gives them a constitutional right to violate a state civil rights law. Yet, instead of take up the case, the Supreme Court gave us this brief decision:
The most likely reading of this brief order is that the court wants to buy itself more time before it resolves the issue of whether or not religion gives conservative Christians a constitutional right to discriminate.
The bad news for supporters of equality is that this issue is not likely to go away. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often broke with his fellow conservatives to support gay rights, is gone. His replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, is a far more doctrinaire conservative who is likely to give religious conservatives the victory they crave — eventually.
But, for the time being, the Supreme Court does not seem eager to weigh into this highly contentious issue again.