Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission on Friday ordered a baker to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, finding his religious objections to the practice did not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes…
Phillips, a devout Christian who owns the Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, said the decision violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of his religion. “I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.
He added his bakery has been so overwhelmed by supporters eager to buy cookies and brownies that he does not currently make wedding cakes…
The panel issued its ruling verbally. It ordered Phillips to stop discriminating against gay people and to report quarterly for two years on staff anti-discrimination training and any customers he refuses to serve.
The commission voted unanimously for the bakery to change its policy of not serving to gay people and ordered a quarterly reporting to confirm it is not turning away customers because of their sexual orientation.
“Religious freedom is undoubtedly an important American value, but so is the right to be treated equally under the law free from discrimination,” said Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Everyone is free to believe what they want, but businesses like Masterpiece Cakeshop cannot treat some customers differently than others based on who they are as people.”
“When it came time to file the lawsuit we realized that this wasn’t just about us and they weren’t just supporting us as individuals,” Mullins said. “They were supporting the idea that gays shouldn’t be discriminated against in public accommodations. We felt like the best way we could honor what they had done for us was to follow this through. It hasn’t always been the easy road, but I believe we’ve been on the right one.”
In his December ruling, administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer said offering the same services to gay couples as it would heterosexual couples did not violate the cake shop owner’s right to free speech or prevent him from exercising his religion…
“At first blush, it may seem reasonable that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone it chooses,” the judge wrote. “This view, however, fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are.”…
“It’s either live and work according to his conscience or collect a paycheck and that’s not choice at all,” Martin said. “It’s not a choice Americans should have to make.”
By what legal authority does the panel make these demands of Phillips? I’m not even speaking philosophically. I disagree with Colorado’s public accommodation discrimination laws, but at least they are actual laws. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission is a made of unelected appointees from the governor. I looked through the commission’s list of rules (pdf), and while the 56-page document is full of all sorts of guidelines on how discrimination hearings should take place and pages upon pages of rules regarding employment discrimination, it doesn’t actually have a lot to say about what sort of remedies the commission is able to enforce, other than giving plaintiffs clearance to sue. But I am not a lawyer and could have missed all sorts of stuff in my skimming. (Also of note: It is against the law in Colorado to put up a sign in a business that says anything similar to “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”). By what right does Colorado claim to be able to demand the names of Phillips’ non-clients? Doesn’t that violate the privacy of a third party completely unconnected to this case?
According to The New York Times, a case the Supreme Court heard in March, involving a challenge to Obamacare’s requirement that businesses pay for their employees’ contraceptives, “pits religious liberty against women’s rights.” Similarly, the recent controversy over an Arizona bill aimed at protecting business owners from being forced to treat homosexual and heterosexual couples alike was widely perceived as a conflict between religious liberty and gay rights.
Both of these debates are more accurately described as clashes between real rights and fake rights. They pit negative liberty, which requires freedom from external restraint, against positive liberty, which imposes demands on other people’s resources. Under the latter vision, giving freedom to one person requires taking it away from another…
But does the government have a compelling interest in forcing people to accept behavior that violates their deeply held beliefs? There is an important difference between requiring the government to treat gay and straight couples the same and requiring private citizens to do so. One is a matter of equal treatment under the law, while the other is intolerance disguised as its opposite…
[A]ccording to [the ACLU], photographers, bakers, and florists must be conscripted for gay weddings. Exactly who is imposing on whom in that situation? By choosing positive liberty over negative liberty, the ACLU is forsaking the freedoms it claims to defend.
Jack Phillips isn’t discriminating against gay Coloradans. Gay customers, as far as all the news stories have suggested, are free to shop in the bakery and purchase (at the same price) any of the cakes, cookies, pastries they like without ever being asked by anyone who they love or what the gender equation is in their sex life. Public accommodations, fine. But the fact is that Phillips does not want to participate in a specific ceremony because he holds authentic, well-documented, age-old religious objections to such an event in the same way that a Hasidic Jew or orthodox Muslim may not want to participate in a ceremony that proclaims Jesus our Lord and Savior. Maybe if we begin forcing atheists to party plan baptisms to make the point clearer.
Though you, and I, may find Phillips objections lacking in merit or even objectionable, according to the blueprint of the American Founding, religious concerns should take precedent over any “civil rights” of cake seekers. Forcing Americans to violate their religion should be avoided unless there is a clear and undeniable compelling interest. Is there no other establishment that bakes cakes in all of Lakewood, Colorado? Because I found at least a dozen other bakeries in the town and surrounding areas. Two years ago, the president of the United States agreed with Phillips, yet today the latter is being run out of business for failing to evolve quickly enough. All this, when capitalism provides gay Coloradans with a bunch of pro-gay businesses they could support less than a mile away.
I do like the notion of same-sex marriage as a liberation gateway drug. Inclusion of LGBT people within institutions like marriage will eventually transform those institutions, just as including women, non-whites, non-Anglos, and non-Christians has done. The experiences and perspectives of LGBT people are different from those of straight people, and different in a good way.
So, if I had to predict, I’d go with a gradual realization of the conservative nightmare—only it won’t be a nightmare, and plenty of straight people will thank us for it. Maybe gays will preserve marriage precisely by redefining, expanding, and reforming it—and maybe then it can be palatable to progressives, as one of a multitude of options.
We can entertain these divergent visions of the future because same-sex marriage was really a campaign, not a movement. For a moment, it brought together liberals, progressives, and even some conservatives. But now that its goal is within sight, the center cannot hold.
And then, things get interesting.