Did you hear about the gay bakery in Greenwich Village – Sweetie Pies, Cupcakes and More — that refused to bake a wedding cake for a straight couple? Can you imagine?
When asked why they refused, the two gay bakers – Adam and Steve – said, “While we have nothing against straight people – some of our best friends are heteros – we don’t think straight people should fall into some ‘protected class.’ In other words, it’s our bakery and we can do whatever we want.”
City officials didn’t see it that way. They fined Adam and Steve over $100,000 because according to local law, a business open to the public must serve the public and can’t refuse service based on sexual orientation.
So whose side are you on? Do the gay bakers have a right to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a heterosexual couple? It is their business, after all. Or was the government right in fining them?
In case you hadn’t heard about the Greenwich Village case, it’s because I made it up. But I suspect you knew that. And I understand that the Oregon case, which is in the news – where Christian bakers were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple – isn’t exactly the same.
In the Oregon case, the bakers claimed it was against their religious beliefs to bake the cake. To do so would violate their fundamental values.
The state didn’t see it that way, ruling that, “Under Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion.”
(Before you ask, Should a Jewish baker be forced to cater a Nazi wedding, let’s be clear: Nazis are not a protected class. In many states — Oregon being one — gays are. So no on the Nazi wedding.)
Melissa Klein, the owner along with her husband of the bakery that was penalized, Sweet Cakes, in Portland, said this on her Facebook page: “We are here to obey God not man, and we will not conform to this world. If we were to lose everything it would be totally worth it for our Lord who gave his one and only son, Jesus, for us! God will win this fight!”
Fair enough. If they’re willing to lose their business by not baking a wedding cake for a gay couple, maybe that’s how God wants it, though I have a tough time believing that God gave even a second of his precious time to the question of whether Christian bakers should make a wedding cake for a couple of gays.
Still, I’d prefer that instead of continuing to wage religious war over this, we call a truce.
What if we had a law said that bakers have no obligation to actually deliver the cake to the site of the wedding; that a florist does not have to attend the wedding to make sure the flowers are arranged properly; that a photographer does not have to take pictures at the actual wedding ceremony? What if the law said, in essence, that business owners, if their religion forbids it, don’t have to set foot inside a venue where a gay wedding takes place.
But, under this compromise, the same law would say that the baker does have to simply bake the cake for the gay couple, and the florist does simply have to sell them flowers, and the photographer does simply have to take pictures at his studio – because businesses that are open to the general public must serve the general public or pay a fine.
There was a comment posted on Snopes.com by someone called “Solandri” that asked for give on both sides. “This [Oregon] case should never have gotten this far. It should have been resolved privately with the company baking the cake but not decorating it, and the lesbian couple decorating it themselves or hiring someone else to decorate it. Coexistence only works if all parties try to figure out a way to coexist with minimal disruption to each other, instead of immediately trying to inflict the maximum possible harm upon each other just because they disagree.”
I understand that some people of faith don’t want any part of gay weddings – even if that part is a small one, such as only baking the cake (and not being required to so much as show up in the same zip code as the wedding). But I worry about the slippery slope.
If bakers can refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple because doing so would violate their religious beliefs, why can’t they refuse to serve openly gay people – period?
Why can’t the florist refuse to sell flowers to gay people – who simply want flowers?
Why can’t these business owners of faith say that homosexuality, in their view, is a sin and they can’t do business with sinful people?
In the ruling against the Christian bakers, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said that, “This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.”
Still, I don’t want to see those Christian bakers in Portland lose their business over this. But let’s not forget that they did make a decision to operate in a civil society. They did open their shop on Main Street. It’s one thing to say on Facebook, “We are here to obey God not man, and we will not conform to this world,” but if you really believe that, don’t open a bakery on a city street. Open it in your church.
Permit me a brief detour: In San Francisco the liberal establishment welcomes all immigrants, legal or otherwise. The mayor and city council have declared San Francisco a “Sanctuary City” and like the 300 or so other sanctuary cities in the United States, they don’t always co-operate with federal immigration officers on matters involving illegal aliens. In the wake of the tragic murder of that young woman in San Francisco, by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times and had many felony convictions, the city’s policy has left many decent people furious — though liberals, in general, still like the idea of sanctuary cities.
But should the city of San Francisco be the judge and jury on what laws it will embrace and which ones it won’t.
And should the Christian bakers in Portland, Oregon be the arbiter of what laws they will follow and which one’s they won’t.
The sanctimony of true believers is understandable. But at times it is also exhausting.