Metro Weekly

LGBTQ groups condemn Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Muslim travel ban

Advocates slam Supreme Court for ignoring religious bias behind travel ban

Photo: U.S. Supreme Court. Credit: Davis Staedtler/flickr.

LGBTQ groups are condemning a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding President Trump’s travel ban on immigrants and refugees from seven countries, including five predominantly Muslim nations.

The court ruled, 5-4, that the Trump administration’s third iteration of a travel ban that had been touted as a sweeping “Muslim ban” withstood constitutional muster on the grounds that the president has broad powers to regulate immigration. The seven nations were singled out due to criticism of insufficient vetting procedures that led the administration to believe that those claiming to be immigrants or refugees might pose a risk to national security. 

The majority also found that those challenging the travel ban would be unlikely to prove that it violates the Establishment Clause — even though opponents cited Trump’s past two iterations of the ban and comments by Trump and members of his administration that indicated the policy was driven by anti-Muslim sentiment.

In criticizing the policy, many LGBTQ groups — which had banned together with Muslim organizations in solidarity — noted that the Supreme Court had taken umbrage at the mere suggestion that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had demonstrated anti-religious bias towards a Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Yet they say the court refused to acknowledge the outright hostility that the Trump administration had expressed towards Islam in crafting the travel ban.

“This is a dark day for the United States, as shameful as the internment of Japanese-Americans and the doors slammed shut to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany,” Lambda Legal CEO Rachel Tiven said in a statement. “President Trump’s Muslim ban has already done immense harm to thousands of people, some trying to flee violence, others cruelly separated from their families, and it’s heartbreaking that the Supreme Court did not put an end to this injustice.

“This month the Court expressed deep concern about the slightest perceived animosity toward a Christian baker, but today is untroubled by the President of the United States singling out Muslims for unequal treatment,” Tiven added. “This is more than hypocritical; it threatens the foundation of bedrock American principles that government cannot show favor or disfavor to any religion. As a queer woman and a Jew, I am outraged and frightened.

“The LGBT community knows what it’s like to be red meat for a demagogue’s base. Future generations will ask us what we did to object,” she concluded. “We stand in solidarity with our Muslim family – straight and gay – and pledge our continued support to fight the ban and the stigma, discrimination, and violence it helps encourage.”

Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, also criticized the court’s disparate reactions to the two cases, saying they “send troubling mixed messages, which threaten to undermine religious freedom, fairness, and equality for all.”

“[T]he court’s aggressive efforts to root out anti-Christian animus by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission were notable, especially in light of its decision today to ignore far more compelling and egregious religious hostility in the Muslim ban case,” Mach wrote in an editorial.

“In contrast to Masterpiece Cakeshop, the evidence of anti-religious animus in the Muslim ban case is massive, unambiguous, and consistent. And it all flows from President Trump, the person singularly responsible for the policy,” Mach added. “Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump explicitly and repeatedly disparaged Muslims and Islam — saying, for example, that ‘Islam hates us’ and ‘we’re having problems with Muslims coming into the country.’ He also formally called for a ‘shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ in a statement that remained on his campaign website well into his presidency.”

“Make no mistake: this is an unnecessary and dangerous ban against Muslims that recklessly puts lives in danger and undermines civil liberties in this country,” HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelwo said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to uphold what is clearly a xenophobic effort that scapegoats persons of a particular faith, threatens the safety of human beings seeking refuge, encourages violence and discrimination against Muslim Americans, and does nothing to keep all Americans safer.”

The National LGBT Bar Association also expressed its disappointment with the court’s decision, saying it “shamefully violates our nation’s fundamental values of equal protection and religious freedom by targeting a vulnerable minority group based on xenophobia and prejudice.”

“Today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the Muslim ban is a harmful ruling that sanctions the racist policies of the Trump administration, which has attacked LGBTQ people, Muslims, immigrants, and many more vulnerable communities in vile and merciless ways,” added Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD. “Our unified communities will stand together in firm opposition to this abjectly un-American ruling.”

OutRight Action International also condemned the ban, noting that it would make it harder for LGBTQ individuals who face persecution in the nations covered by the travel ban to seek asylum.

“It is deeply distressing that the Supreme Court has voted to uphold this ban that institutionalizes xenophobia under the guise of ‘national security.’ As much as Judge Kennedy claims the ban is ‘neutral on its face,’ we know it is meant to target a specific group — Muslims,” Jessica Stern, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Anyone seeking refuge from violence and persecution, including LGBTIQ individuals who face criminalization in five of the countries on the list, now has one more door closed in their face.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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