Fight over Colorado Civil Rights Division

Masterpiece Cake Shop

On Tuesday, February 13th there was a rally to save the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The atmosphere was described by Rep. Paul Rosenthal on Facebook as “Amazing energy and a big crowd at the rally to protest Republican efforts to kill the Civil Rights Commission and Division.” Many state legislators, elected officials, community activists, and ordinary citizens, where all in attendance in attempts to have their respective voices heard.   I personally believe from a bi-partisan view, that the dismantling of the Colorado Civil Rights Division could be setting the stage for a bigger civil rights fight in this nation. According to the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) website, the CCRD is charged with enforcing Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.

The pro CCRD rally occurred in response to a February 9th joint budget Committee threat to end the CCRD governmental entity. The committee voted to stop the funding for CCRD. Republican Sen. Ken Lambert who sits on the Joint Budget Committee told CBS Denver “They wanted to basically pick a fight on this right now, make a political statement that there might be some sort of crisis to worry people of Colorado that something is being defunded — and it’s not,” later in the legislative session lawmakers will be voting to renew the commission’s existence. I believe that the overlying fear is not based on the initial defunding with a promise to vote on a renewed existence, but a fear of those citizens who will suffer waiting for the commission to be renewed.

Some Democratic pundits are saying that the reason Republicans are standing in the way of funding for the CCRD is because of the Masterpiece Cake-shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. If you do not remember the Masterpiece Cake-shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case to sum it up for brevity sake; in 2012 a gay couple wanted Masterpiece Cake-shop of Lakewood to make their wedding cake but the couple was denied services because the owner of Masterpiece Cake-Shop claimed couple’s marriage was at conflict with their religious beliefs. To this date, Colorado Court of Appeals sided with the couple and not the bakery’s owner. The case is currently waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the lower courts decision.

Both of these arguments while with some merit behind both of them if a person were to base societal conflicts on a black and white prospectus will only lead to more significant fights down the road that could determine our civil rights paradigm for years to come. The argument is going to be centered on the First Amendment that’s states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.” Or Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 that states “Prohibits any agency, department, or official of the United States or any State (the government) from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except that the government may burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person.” Essentially in the United States of America every citizen has the right to do what they please as long as it does not affect the rights of others. The problem is sometimes this cannot be avoided, therefore societal paradigms determine this paradoxes.

I believe I know how the Supreme Court will rule and I can see both sides of each argument. How can anyone be-forced to deliver a service that they believe will jeopardize their faith? However how can an individual use their faith as a reason to discriminate? How can we discriminate against someone intolerance or defend someone’s intolerance. Either way, both arguments in my opinion are slippery slopes towards a shift in American societal moors. I have had this conversation with a few different people and heard different views on the subject, and I have yet to hear two of the same.

As for myself, I am going to continue to be accepting of people with different views of my own religious beliefs. I belong to a church that prides its self on being a hospital for the sick and not a museum of the righteous. We believe that faith should bring together under the teachings of Christ not tear apart. Religion is entirely internal, and the lessons you learn from teaching should make you a better person to everyone. I am going to keep on loving others even if I believe they are wrong, and I will grow from that love. I guess what I am trying to say is let’s try to accept people for who they are because no one is perfect and never will be.