“There Is No Constitutional Right to Discriminate”:
Toni Van Pelt, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), spoke this morning at a rally organized by the ACLU legal team on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court heard arguments today in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which involves a business that is open to the public refusing to sell a wedding cake to a couple because they were gay.
Toni Van Pelt’s prepared remarks are as follows:
I am Toni Van Pelt, President of NOW, the National Organization for Women. The NOW Foundation joined the amicus brief in this case because our mission is to assure that women and LGBT persons are treated fairly and equally under the law. In theory, that puts us in accord with the motto inscribed in this building’s majestic marble —“Equal Justice Under Law.” But the truth, as we all know, is that women and marginalized communities have long suffered injustice and discrimination when right-wing political agendas pollute the fair interpretation and enforcement of our laws.
Proponents of discrimination have routinely used religion to justify their hurtful policies. Shameful examples include slavery in the United States and segregation in the Deep South. We confronted that chapter of our history a generation ago, which is why we now have laws that ensure businesses don’t discriminate against customers based on who they are.
But we’re still fighting for equal justice under law. Today, women are denied basic health care like birth control, emergency contraception, and abortion – in the name of religion. And the same politicians and groups that are still fighting—despite laws that say they have no basis to do so—against the rights of Americans to marry the people they love are once again using religion to defend their hate speech.
A decision in this case in favor of a constitutional right to discriminate would open the floodgates to further discrimination against women of color, transgender women, single women, working women, immigrant women—anyone and everyone at risk of being marginalized by those who see them as less than equal.
We all know what discrimination feels like. It hurts. And it’s wrong.
Today, we stand on these steps to remind the Supreme Court that discrimination is also unconstitutional. They must find in favor of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in favor of Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, and in favor of those words the Justices see every time they pass through this door—“Equal Justice Under Law.”
Emily Imhoff, firstname.lastname@example.org, 951-547-1241