South Dakota Rep. Michael Clark (R) has had to apologize for his misinterpretation of this week’s Supreme Court decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. In a Facebook comment, Clark argued that the decision meant that racial discrimination is totally legal now.
On his Facebook page, Clark described the decision as a “win for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.” Another user posed a question about whether Jack Phillips, the baker the Court ruled in favor of, should have to bake a cake for a black couple if he didn’t want to. “It is his business,” Clark responded. “He should have the opportunity to run his business the way he wants. If he wants to turn away people of color, then that [is] his choice.”
This sparked unsurprising outrage, with many pointing out that the federal Civil Rights Act has outlawed such racial discrimination since 1964. Indeed, Masterpiece Cakeshop didn’t even directly infringe on laws protecting against anti-gay discrimination, let alone racial discrimination.
Clark took down the post Tuesday, but defended the sentiment in an interview with the Argus Leader. “If it’s truly his strongly based belief, he should be able to turn them away,” he said. “People shouldn’t be able to use their minority status to bully a business.”
But shortly after the Argus Leader published story, Clark sent an email to the newspaper with a full apology — at least for his support for racial discrimination. “I would never advocate discriminating against people based on their color or race.” He did not retract his implied support for anti-gay discrimination.
Tuesday night, Clark published another apology on his own Facebook page. “The comments I made were very racist,” he admitted. “I would like to apologize for those comments. Businesses should not be able to discriminate solely based on race, sex, national origin, age, or handicap.” He once again conspicuously omitted any mention of protecting people on account of their sexual orientation.
“I know I can’t make amends to everyone and not everyone will see this apology. For those that do, I sincerely hope you will accept this apology,” he said.
Clark voted for a 2017 bill that allowed adoption agencies in South Dakota to refuse to serve same-sex couples on the basis of a religious objection. As a candidate in 2016, he also objected when Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) vetoed a bill that would have mandated anti-transgender discrimination in South Dakota schools. In a comment on DakotaFreePress.com, Clark wrote, “Girls should shower with the girls and boys should shower with the boys,” describing transgender students as being “in between, unsure, confused, or otherwise.”
In Tuesday night’s primary election, Clark faced no opposition, making him a likely shoe-in for reelection in the fall.