Must a baker make a gay couple's wedding cake? Surprising number of NY Times readers say no

At this point, you’re probably already familiar with the case of baker Jack Phillips who declined to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding on the grounds that it went against his beliefs as a Christian. In June, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case which suggests the legal issue here isn’t as simple as it might appear (to some) at first glance. Today the NY Times published a sample of the 4,500 responses to the story written on the website or on Facebook by their readers. To the Times’ credit, they didn’t use this as an excuse to load up one side of the argument. In fact, the paper offers a roughly equal presentation of views from both sides. Here’s a sample:


I’m gay myself but in this situation, I’m actually finding myself siding more with the baker than the gay couple. The baker stated that he would create other types of cakes for gay people or any people — just not wedding cakes. It clarifies he’s not broadly discriminating against gay people.

I think the politics of nondiscrimination have gone too far and are being too often used now to bully people. Yes, in an ideal world, this baker would have his eyes opened and would not allow religion to narrow him in this way. But I think we are going too far with the state trying to force people to be completely without prejudice.

Does this turn on whether this cake had already been made?

There is a distinction between a pre-made cake sitting in a display and a request for a custom-designed cake. This falls within the category of art or craft, not merely the sale of food.

A portrait painter may choose who they will accept a commission from. I would think that the cake designer would fall within the same category.

Another commenter makes a similar point:

I don’t think we should compel people to produce bespoke products against their will. This isn’t like selling an existing product or allowing someone access to a pre-defined service.

On the other side of the argument, another commenter says the baker ought to be willing to sell a cake he’s made before and if not he’s discriminating:


It’s one thing to be selective about the kind of designs that he is willing to do. If he chooses not to carry Adam & Steve wedding toppers or to create decorative sculptures of the couple or to embellish the cake with a couple’s names, that is his right. But if the two men are fine to have a design like what he has already done for others, the baker has no grounds for refusing to make the cake.

And one more comment that seems to also hinge on the question of whether this was a pre-made/generic wedding cake or one specifically made for this couple:

This isn’t a case about artistic or religious expression, and it makes no difference how beautiful his cakes are. It’s about a prima donna cake decorator thinking that he can control what happens to his “art” after it leaves his workshop.

The usual caveat: I’m not an attorney so I can’t render an opinion on the legal argument. Apparently, this baker claims he has no problem selling items to gay clients. From the NY Times story on the case:

In a Supreme Court brief, Mr. Phillips’s lawyers said “he is happy to create other items for gay and lesbian clients.” But his faith requires him, they said, “to use his artistic talents to promote only messages that align with his religious beliefs.”

“Thus,” the brief said, “he declines lucrative business by not creating goods that contain alcohol or cakes celebrating Halloween and other messages his faith prohibits, such as racism, atheism, and any marriage not between one man and one woman.”


So it seems readers on both sides of the issue have narrowed in on the claim the baker is making, i.e. that he shouldn’t be forced to do “custom” work that violates his beliefs. That may be a bad business strategy on his part, but is it discrimination?

I’m not an attorney so I won’t offer a guess what the Supreme Court might decide. I found it interesting that even NY Times readers, who I take to be overwhelmingly progressive, see some wrinkles here that make this a tricky case.

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