Here’s a piece of news that slipped under my radar yesterday but we might as well tackle it today. You’re likely already familiar with the baker who went back and forth in court with people trying to force him to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The Supreme Court eventually found in his favor, though narrowly. In August, the Eighth Circuit ruled that the same situation applied to a photographer who similarly objected to providing services.
Now, as David French reports at National Review, yet another court has taken a similar stand when it comes to another artistic endeavor. The state Supreme Court of Arizona has ruled in favor of a pair of calligraphers and painters who create custom wedding invitations.
Today, the Arizona Supreme Court reached a similar holding, this time on behalf of Christian calligraphers and painters Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski. The case, brought by my friends and former colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom, is similar to multiple other wedding vendor cases. The plaintiffs do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (they happily serve gay customers). They merely refuse to produce art that advances ideas they find objectionable.
Duka and Koski operate a limited liability company called “Brush & Nib Studios.” The company’s Operating Agreement declares its beliefs quite clearly — stating that it will not create “custom artwork that communicates ideas or messages . . . that contradict biblical truth, demean others, endorse racism, incite violence, or promote any marriage besides marriage between one man and one woman, such as same-sex marriage.”
As I’ve written here more times than I can count, I’m not among those who object to gay marriage. I strongly believe that the government should not be in the business of telling people who can or can’t get married (with exceptions for the underage or those incapable of giving informed consent) or demanding licenses and charging fees for the privilege of doing so. Besides, having been to a couple of gay weddings now, I can assure you that the food and gifts are generally fabulous. But I digress.
At the same time, however, I have also maintained that nobody should be forced to participate in a wedding celebration if it conflicts with their deeply held views. That’s the test I would apply to this case. Baking and decorating a custom cake is an act of participation. The cake is a physical totem used during the reception. It’s art.
Can we say the same about invitations? If they were generic, cookie-cutter invitation being sold at Walmart and the clerk refused to sell them to two lesbians who were tying the knot I would say certainly not and the store should be held accountable. But this duo creates custom invitations through painting and the art of calligraphy. Again… it’s art. But is it “part of the ceremony” like the cake is? Um… I guess so? At least the court felt that way.
In all of these cases that arise, I find myself coming back to the same point. Why do these couples seek out these specific providers and demand that they and only they will be suitable to serve them? The industry supporting weddings in America is brutally competitive. Virtually anywhere you go you will find hordes of people eager to take your money exchange for all of the goods and services a wedding requires. And at the risk of overly generalizing, it’s a pretty gay-friendly environment if you know what I mean.
Insisting that someone with a moral objection provide your goods and services when you could so easily find those services elsewhere seems mean-spirited at best. Perhaps the courts are taking that into consideration as well as the entire forced speech concern.