The 'Masterpiece Cakeshop' ruling is actually a win for LGBT rights

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On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the now infamous Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Then all hell broke loose. After the Court ruled that a Christian baker didn't have to provide a customized cake for a same-sex marriage he objected to, Democrats eager to appease the LGBT community quickly voiced their outrage. Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi even called the ruling a violation of "fundamental rights" that "fails to uphold equality."

But I'm gay and pro-gay marriage, and even after this decision, I don't think the sky is falling. If anything this ruling, albeit narrow in scope, is a win for individual freedom and the First Amendment — and in the long run, it will be a victory for the gay community as well.

RELATED: The Supreme Court dodged 'the bigger question' in same-sex wedding cake case

Let's consider the facts of the case. The left tried to portray the Masterpiece case as a fight for gay rights — CNN even ran multiple headlines calling it a "same-sex marriage case" — but this case was never really about gay marriage. It's about whether gay couples can force others to participate in their wedding ceremonies even when it violates their religious beliefs. Jack Phillips is a Christian baker who was punished by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission after he declined to provide a customized wedding cake to a gay couple because he didn't want to provide an implicit endorsement of a same-sex union. This raises a complex First Amendment question: Do business owners have free speech rights?

This case was never really about gay marriage.

The best answer for everyone, including LGBT people, is an emphatic yes. Business owners are people, and they shouldn't be forced to violate their beliefs to accommodate someone else's convenience. The gay couple in this case could have gotten a cake made for their wedding almost anywhere, but decided they wanted to try and force a Christian baker to serve them. At first glance this might seem harmless — or even appealing if you support gay marriage like I do — but it's dangerous. If Phillips can be forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding, why couldn't a gay baker be forced to bake a cake that says "God hates gay people?"

This almost happened. The same Colorado Civil Rights Commission that ruled against Phillips declined to pursue action against a gay baker in a 2014 case where he refused to serve a Christian activist who wanted anti-gay bible verses inscribed on a cake. But religious affiliation is a protected class just like sexual orientation, so before the Masterpiece ruling, the government could have cracked down on the gay baker and forced him to violate his beliefs as well. Other more conservative state regulatory bodies probably would have. So this ruling isn't just a win for Phillips — it's a win for all Americans who want to live a free society where they can't be forced to compromise their conscience.

Tolerance can't be forced.

Tolerance can't be forced. Activists who really want to increase LGBT acceptance need to seriously rethink their approach, because using the court system or government force to push your ideology onto others only fosters more resistance. Attitudes toward gay marriage are already shifting in a positive direction, but the 30 percent of the country still in opposition can't be convinced through coercion. The left insists that this case is about "gay rights," but no one has the right to force their beliefs onto others — and that kind of ideological animosity isn't exactly endearing. It often backfires, and isn't the way to truly promote tolerance or acceptance.

If anything, this decision didn't go far enough. The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the baker, but it was a narrow ruling in scope, and it didn't hand down any broad declarations protecting free speech or individual conscience rights. The Court focused on the facts of this case, and cited the religious animosity shown by Colorado as an excuse to decline to set a precedent that could be broadly applied to future cases.

A broader pro-liberty decision would have done more to advance individual freedom, and could actually have expanded protections for LGBT Americans as a result. After all, at one time in American history, gay people were persecuted through anti-sodomy laws and even had their children taken away on account of their sexuality.

Surely the gay community can appreciate the necessity of individual freedom and the importance of protecting the First Amendment right to dissent from ideas you disagree with. In the Masterpiece case the Court narrowly protected this right — and in doing so, protected the same LGBT community it appeared to rule against.

Brad Polumbo is a writer for Young Voices. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Federalist, Fox News and National Review.

This compromise is an abomination

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Three decades ago, "The Art of the Deal" made Donald Trump a household name. A lot has happened since then. But you can trace many of Trump's actions back to that book.

Art of the Deal:

In the end, you're measured not by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish.

People laughed when he announced that he was running for President. And I mean that literally. Remember the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner when Obama roasted Trump, viciously, mocking the very idea that Trump could ever be President. Now, he's President.

You can't con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.

This empire-building is a mark of Trump.

RELATED: 'Arrogant fool' Jim Acosta exposed MSM's dishonest border agenda — again.

The most recent example is the border wall. Yesterday, congress reached a compromise on funding for the border wall. Weeks of tense back-and-forth built up to that moment. At times, it seemed like neither side would budge. Trump stuck to his guns, the government shut down, Trump refused to budge, then, miraculously, the lights came back on again. The result was a compromise. Or at least that's how it appeared.

But really, Trump got what he wanted -- exactly what he wanted. He used the techniques he wrote about in The Art of the Deal:

My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I'm after.

From the start, he demanded $5.7 billion for construction of a border wall. It was a months' long tug-of-war that eventually resulted in yesterday's legislation, which would dedicate $1.4 billion. It would appear that that was what he was after all along. Moments before the vote, he did some last-minute pushing. A national emergency declaration, and suddenly the number is $8 billion.

Art of the Deal:

People think I'm a gambler. I've never gambled in my life. To me, a gambler is someone who plays slot machines. I prefer to own slot machines. It's a very good business being the house.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, Senate passed the legislation 83-16, and the House followed with 300-128. Today, Trump will sign the bill.

It's not even fair to call that a deal, really. A deal is what happens when you go to a car dealership, fully ready to buy a car, and the salesman says the right things. What Trump did is more like a car dealer selling an entire row of cars to someone who doesn't even have a licence. When Trump started, Democrats wouldn't even consider a wall, let alone pay for it.

Art of the Deal:

The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.

He started the wall on a chant, "Build the wall!" until he got what he wanted. He maneuvered like Don Draper, selling people something that they didn't even know they wanted, and convincing them that it is exactly what they've always needed.

As the nation soaks in the victory of the recent passing of the historic First Step Act, there are Congressmen who haven't stopped working to solve additional problems with the criminal justice system. Because while the Act was impactful, leading to the well-deserved early release of many incarcerated individuals, it didn't go far enough. That's why four Congressmen have joined forces to reintroduce the Justice Safety Valve Act—legislation that would grant judges judicial discretion when determining appropriate sentencing.

There's a real need for this legislation since it's no secret that lawmakers don't always get it right. They may pass laws with good intentions, but unintended consequences often prevail. For example, there was a time when the nation believed the best way to penalize lawbreakers was to be tough on crime, leading to sweeping mandatory minimum sentencing laws implemented both nationally and statewide.

RELATED: If Trump can support criminal justice reform, so can everyone else

Only in recent years have governments learned that these sentences aren't good policy for the defendant or even the public. Mandatory minimum sentences are often overly harsh, don't act as a public deterrent for crime, and are extremely costly to taxpayers. These laws tie judges' hands, preventing them from using their knowledge and understanding of the law to make case relevant decisions.

Because legislation surrounding criminal law is often very touchy and difficult to change (especially on the federal level, where bills can take multiple years to pass) mandatory minimum sentences are far from being done away with—despite the data-driven discoveries of their downfalls. But in order to solve the problems inherent within all of the different laws imposing sentencing lengths, Congress needs to pass the Justice Safety Valve Act now. Ensuring its passing would allow judges to use discretion while sentencing, rather than forcing them to continue issuing indiscriminate sentences no matter the unique facts of the case.

Rather than take years to go back and try to fix every single mandatory minimum law that has been federally passed, moving this single piece of legislation forward is the best way to ensure judges can apply their judgment in every appropriate case.

When someone is facing numerous charges from a single incident, mandatory minimum sentencing laws stack atop one another, resulting in an extremely lengthy sentence that may not be just. Such high sentences may even be violations of an individual's eighth amendment rights, what with the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. It's exactly what happened with Weldon Angelos.

In Salt Lake City in 2002, Weldon sold half a pound of marijuana to federal agents on two separate occasions. Unbeknownst to Weldon, the police had targeted him because they suspected he was a part of a gang and trafficking operation. They were oh-so-wrong. Weldon had never sold marijuana before and only did this time because he was pressured by the agents to find marijuana for them. He figured a couple lowkey sales could help out his family's financial situation. But Weldon was caught and sentenced to a mandatory 55 years in prison. This massive sentence is clearly unjust for a first time, non-violent crime, and even the Judge, Paul Cassell, agreed. Judge Cassell did everything he could to reduce the sentence, but, due to federal law, it wasn't much.

The nation is facing an over-criminalization problem that costs taxpayers millions and amounts to the foolish eradication of individual liberties.

In cases like Weldon's, a safety valve for discretionary power is much needed. Judges need the ability to issue sentences below the mandatory minimums, depending on mitigating factors such as mental health, provocation, or physical illness. That's what this new bill would allow for. Critics may argue that this gives judges too much power, but under the bill, judges must first make a finding on why it's necessary to sentence below the mandatory minimum. Then, they must write a clear statement explaining their decision.

Judges are unlikely to risk their careers to allow dangerous criminals an early release. If something happens after an offender is released early, the political pressure is back on the judge who issued the shorter sentence—and no one wants that kind of negative attention. In order to avoid risky situations like this, they'd use their discretion very cautiously, upholding the oath they took to promote justice in every case.

The nation is facing an overcriminalization problem that costs taxpayers millions and amounts to the foolish eradication of individual liberties. Mandatory minimums have exacerbated this problem, and it's time for that to stop. Congresswomen and men have the opportunity to help solve this looming problem by passing the Justice Safety Valve Act to untie the hands of judges and restore justice in individual sentences.

Molly Davis is a policy analyst at Libertas Institute, a free market think tank in Utah. She's a writer for Young Voices, and her work has previously appeared in The Hill, TownHall.com, and The Washington Examiner.

New gadget for couples in 'the mood' lets a button do the talking

Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

Just in time for Valentine's Day, there's a new romantic gadget for couples that is sure to make sparks fly. For those with their minds in the gutter, I'm not talking about those kinds of gadgets. I'm talking about a brilliant new device for the home called "LoveSync."

This is real — it's a simple pair of buttons for busy, modern couples who have plenty of time for social media and Netflix, but can't quite squeeze in time to talk about their... uh... special relationship.

Here's how it works. Each partner has their own individual LoveSync button. Whenever the mood strikes one partner, all they have to do is press their own button. That sets their button aglow for a certain period of time. If, during that time window, their partner also presses their own button, then both buttons light up in a swirling green pattern to signal that love has "synced"...and it's go time.

According to the makers of LoveSync, this device will "Take the Luck out of Getting Lucky." It brings a whole new meaning to "pushing each other's buttons." It's an ideal gift to tell your significant other "I care," without actually having to care, or talk about icky things like feelings.

If you find your significant other is already on the couch binge-watching The Bachelor, no problem! You can conveniently slink back to your button and hold it in for four seconds to cancel the desire. No harm, no foul! Live to fight another day.

Have fun explaining those buttons to inquiring children.

No word yet on whether LoveSync can also order wine, light candles or play Barry White. Maybe that's in the works for LoveSync 2.0.

Of course, LoveSync does have some pitfalls. Cats and toddlers love a good button. That'll be a fun conversation — "Honey, who keeps canceling my mood submissions?" And have fun explaining those buttons to inquiring children. "Yeah, kids, that button just controls the lawn sprinklers. No big deal."

If you've been dialing it in for years on Valentine's Day with flowers and those crappy boxes of chocolate, now you can literally dial it in. With a button.

Good luck with that.