The case of the gay wedding cake

Suppose you’re a portrait artist. It’s your profession. And the local Nazi asks you to paint him. “Get lost,” you say, “I don’t paint Nazis.”

“That’s discriminatory!” he thunders. “I have rights! You shall hear from my lawyer!”

Does he have a case?

I support gay marriage. And the principle of nondiscrimination. But does that mean baker Jack Phillips should be forced to supply a cake for a wedding he deems against his religion? This case is now before the Supreme Court.

I’m no fan of religion, too. I consider barbaric a Bible that condemns gay sex while applauding slavery, genocide, and children torn apart by bears as punishment for mocking an old man’s baldness. (Yes, God did that. What a guy.)

It’s also true that freedom of religion does not protect actions otherwise unlawful. If your religion teaches human sacrifice, sorry, no dice.

But cake refusal is not on a par with human sacrifice. It may be discriminatory, yet doesn’t actually deny important rights. When Kentucky official Kim Davis refused to issue gay marriage licenses, citing her religion, that denied couples’ rights to marry. Baker Phillips is not denying the gay couple’s right to marry. He’s only denying them a cake. And not even that; surely they could get one elsewhere.

As often, this is not a case of right against wrong, but right against right. The gay couple has rights — but so does the baker.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act established the principle that providers of public accommodations cannot discriminate and refuse service arbitrarily. Read Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warmth of Other Suns, about the black Alabama doctor who relocated to California, his trip an endurance ordeal because nowhere could he get a meal or a room. It was reasonable for society to decide that in balancing his rights against those of hoteliers and restaurateurs, the latter should give way.

Applying the same idea to a cake goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. We don’t need the federal government cracking down on bakers.

I can sympathize with the gay couple made to feel bad when the baker refused them. But their literally making a federal case of it vitiates my sympathy. We seem to have developed a strange civic notion that everybody has a right never to experience anything disagreeable. With the government as enforcer. My sympathy actually shifts toward the baker, with government power called down upon his head like a ton of bricks, just because he didn’t want to bake a cake. Talk about a disagreeable experience. He has rights too.

Gays have won the battle for marriage rights, and it’s a good thing. But, having won it, must they grind their opponents’ faces in the dust, shoving their rights down their throats? Liberals always used to bleat about “tolerance.” But actually they have no tolerance for anything they don’t agree with. This issue goes even beyond forcing people to bake cakes against their religious scruples. I’ve written about Brendan Eich, forced out as head of a major company, for the “crime” of supporting a California referendum against gay marriage (which passed). Isn’t that precisely the “McCarthyism” lefties beat their breasts about?

Perhaps, instead of seeking to browbeat and coerce resistors, gay marriage advocates would do better to emulate Abraham Lincoln’s “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” A virtuously victorious gay rights movement might be magnanimous in recognizing that Jack Phillips has a right to his stupid religion.

2 Responses to “The case of the gay wedding cake”

  1. frankzollo Says:

    It sounds like your position is very close to that of David Brooks. I’m inclined to agree, though I wonder if I’d feel the same way if I were gay.

  2. Lee Says:

    If a Jewish Baker refused to put a swastika on a cake for a Nazi customer ….

    If a Nazi Baker refuse to put a Jewish star on a cake for a Jewish customer ….

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