SCOTUS decisions

Well, everyone else in the world has weighed in on this shit, so I may as well. On the current flurry of SCOTUS decisions.

First, the CO website designer versus a gay couple. This one is bad – it opens the door wide for many types of discrimination AND it is based on a lie. SCOTUS ruled that yes, a service provider could indeed refuse to provide an advertised service because they didn’t like the resulting message. From NPR:

In a major decision affecting LGBTQ rights, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday carved out a significant exception to public accommodations laws–laws that in most states bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

By a 6-to-3 vote, the court sided with Lorie Smith, a Colorado web designer who is opposed to same sex marriage. She challenged the state’s public accommodations law, claiming that by requiring her to serve everyone equally, the state was unconstitutionally enlisting her in creating a message she opposes.

Said like that, it doesn’t sound…terrible. But there are a few things wrong here:

  • Turns out the plaintiff isn’t a web designer, at least currently and for quite some time.
  • Turns out the defendent isn’t gay, didn’t make the service request and has no idea what the plaintiff is talking about.

So SCOTUS wrote a major decision, sure to be used to increase the wedge of discrimination in commerce, based on a scam. Who the fuck does the due diligence for the court? Deputy Barney Fyfe?

I predict that this decision will be used by the oh-so-judgemental Xtain right to justify all kinds of discrimination. “Sorry, we can’t serve you because we disagree with the message that will send to other customers.” Hmmm, that sounds a lot like southern restaurants in the 1940s.

The hell of it is, I get it, as a business owner I do not want to participate in sending a message that I fundamentally disagree with. For example, if I own a T-shirt shop, I’m going to turn down an order for 1000 “Trump2024” shirts. That’s my right, and my decision to turn down the job isn’t based on the buyer’s race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or gender (the Protected Classes). So it’s legal and not discriminatory.

And that’s where it gets complicated. Only a gay person/couple would request the website message cited in the case, so is the refusal to serve really based on the message or the sexual orientation of the buyer? Those two things are intertwined. And if it’s the latter (it is, IMHO), then Pandora’s box just opened for court-approved gay segregation. SCOTUS fucked up here, both in the basic due diligence of the case’s facts and in opening the door to all kinds of new “I don’t like that person because reasons” discrimination.

Next up, let’s consider the Affirmative Action case, in which SCOTUS ruled against two universities using race as a factor in college admissions.

I may have to recuse myself because I’ve been affected by Affirmative Action my entire working life, some 45 years. I remember in my first job, when we learned about AA hiring guidelines, thinking, “Huh. So they want to fight discrimination with a different kind of discrimination. We’re supposed to give minorities an advantage over any non-minority, all else being equal.” My co-workers and I shook it off and just moved ahead. It was and is clear that discrimination is and was real, and that some classes of people – back in the 70s-80s it was mostly black people – had in fact been excluded systematically from parts of society. No argument there. But my concern about the logic of discriminating to end discrimination turned out to be real, as corporate culture in the 2000s became very simple. It became an obvious liability to be a white male working in a company that championed diversity. At my last employer, some 90% of all promotions to VP went to someone other than a white male. The bias had become so obvious that it was an inside joke.

Perhaps it was just timing, as I ended my career at a point where I think the pendulum had swung too far. Yes there was a glass ceiling for women, yes, white males in corporations acted in a chummy/clubby exclusionary way for decades. But now we have this corporate culture where diversity trumps merit, and I’m not OK with that.

This latest decision affects universities directly, but will bleed into corporate culture over time. SCOTUS is saying that you can’t use race as an explicit factor in making decisions on the merit of an applicant for admissions. In general, I’m OK with that. In this case of a decades-long attempt to right the wrongs of the past (Affirmative Action), I think the pendulum has already swung far enough; indeed, too far. So I find myself agreeing with the court on this one.

I’ll save commentary on the final big decision of last month – the student loan forgiveness debacle. Lots to think about on that one.