Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the landmark Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises case. Piggie Park, a small barbeque chain still open today, wanted the right to refuse service to African American customers. The owner, a segregationist, claimed that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 violated his religious freedom. The Supreme Court delivered a resounding and swift rebuke of the barbeque chain on March 18, 1968, definitively ruling that the restaurant could no longer discriminate.
The week of March 12 through March 18, 2018 has been designed as Open to All Week, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Piggie Park decision. In addition, the nationwide Open to All Campaign, the Movement Advancement Project, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights have unveiled a new public education ad, “Will We Go Back?” that looks at how a new case before the Supreme Court could roll back that historic ruling.
In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case that will soon be decided by the Supreme Court, a Colorado bakery that discriminated against a gay couple in violation of Colorado law is claiming it should be exempt from the state’s nondiscrimination law due to the religious beliefs of its owner.
“Piggie Park wasn’t just about barbeque. And Masterpiece isn’t just about cake,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project. “Businesses and their owners have a right to their religious beliefs—but that freedom shouldn’t give businesses a license to discriminate.”
To highlight the high stakes of the case, the new ad “Will We Go Back?” reflects on the landmark Piggie Park decision and how the historic legacy of that ruling would be threatened by a win for the bakery in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. A victory for the bakery would sanction and encourage discrimination not just against LGBT people, but also against minority faiths, interfaith couples, people of color, women, people with disabilities, and others, as explained by the ad and a new policy brief “50 Years Ago vs. Today: Piggie Park & The High Stakes of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case” released today.
“As the Supreme Court held a half century ago in the Piggie Park case, the free exercise of religion does not provide a license to discriminate,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The Supreme Court must reaffirm that important principle in Masterpiece Cakeshop.”
In December 2017, a broad coalition of LGBT, civil rights, racial justice and allied organizations launched Open to All, a national campaign to build support for nondiscrimination laws and focus attention on the far-reaching, dangerous risks of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.