Three citizens of Colorado are heading to the supreme court on December 5, 2017. The plaintiffs are Charlie Craig and David Mullins. The defendant, Jack Phillips is a baker.
Phillips refused to create a “gay-wedding cake” for Craig and Mullins wedding reception. He supported his decision based on being morally opposed to same-sex marriage.
When I first heard about this case on local news, I came to a swift judgment. Phillips was discriminating against the gay couple. Case closed. But, after reading several stories, I, wasn’t convinced that he violated the law.
I grew up surrounded by gay friends. Many of my heroes as kids, were gay or bisexual. Elton John, David Bowie, Ellen DeGeneres, Harvey Fierstein, to name a few. Most were forced to live in the shadows of society to avoid scrutiny. My godfather and his husband waited years before their commitment could be publicly and legally recognized.
Learning all the facts became very important to me. Even if I didn’t agree with Phillips’ position, I wanted to understand him. It required me to put away my preconceptions and try to understand his position. I wanted to be on the side of right; what I perceived as right. But, I needed to understand the facts behind the emotions.
I believe in free will. But, I do not support discrimination in any form. I wanted to understand Phillips’ motivation. I looked into my brush with organized religion, and the answer quickly revealed itself.
“Mawwiage is What Brings Us Togewah Today!”
There are significant differences between the biblical description of marriage and Webster’s definition. The bible defines marriage as the following,
Marriage is a covenant, a sacred bond between a man and a woman instituted by and publicly entered into before God and normally consummated by sexual intercourse. … (3) The intimacy of marriage: Marriage is the most intimate of all human relationships, uniting a man and a woman in a “one-flesh” union (Genesis 2:23 -25).
That definition shows how some may take issue with “marriage” between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. It does not “fit” the definition.
Webster’s dictionary, in 2003, made an update to their definition. They added the following to the definition of marriage:
“The state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.”
Under this description, there is more leeway. There is an understanding of commitment and respect under the eyes of the law. In the United States, there is a declared, if not always followed, separation of Church and State. “Marriage” needs no prefix, such as “gay.” To do so lessens its strength. It leaves room for unnecessary criticism, regardless of sexual orientation.
Dog Marriages? A-OK. Same-Sex Marriages? Meh.
It is public record that Phillips does not create cakes with Halloween themes anti-family, anti-American messages or racist symbols. Although I love Halloween, most would applaud him for his other choices.
Some will argue that Phillips’ willingness to create a marriage cake for two dogs or his refusal to create one for the commitment ceremony of two women proves that he discriminates. Before I could agree, I took a step back. I reflected on my college Philosophy 101 class.
The class started as an unwelcome requirement. It ended up being one of the most impactful experiences of my life. The discussions we had forced me to face my subjective feelings and prejudices. I learned to balance them with the agreed upon laws of various societies.
The discussions involved murder, rape and, death sentences vs. life in prison. It challenged the cores of my belief system. We learned to remove emotions and focus on the facts and laws. I even found myself landing on the opposite side of my own argument, on occasion.
Several reports described Phillips’ actions to be on par with segregation. Akin, to white store owners refusing to serve people of color. I tried to create a scenario where emotions could swing in the opposite direction. Making a theoretical baker the sympathetic character to a different, but a controversial request. With that in mind, I created a thought experiment.
A baker is hired to bake a cake. The cake would be to honor a KKK member becoming a Grand Wizard. It would be a standard celebration cake. Nothing about the cake would bring attention to the KKK. The baker alone would know its purpose.
Then I went for a long walk and thought about it. I put myself in the shoes of the baker. I narrowed down my observations to three things.
1) The law protects most KKK activities.
2) The KKK does not represent my beliefs.
3) By participating in the making of the cake, the baker “could” be perceived as condoning their beliefs. Even worse, supporting them.
I looked at my list for a long time. I found myself again thinking back to the phrasing, “gay wedding cake.” I could not uncover any article about the case, that described the design of the cake. I wanted to allow myself to defend Phillips based on artistic choice. I couldn’t find any such details.
I did learn that Phillips’ turned the couple, and Craig’s mother away, right away. There was no talk of two grooms on the cake. They asked for nothing vulgar. However, when they mentioned the cake was for a same-sex wedding reception, Phillips ended the meeting.
Choosing not to design a cake under artistic or moral conflict might be defendable. Refusing to sell the same cake, that any other patron could buy, was beginning to sound like textbook discrimination.
I then returned to my experiment. I looked closer at protected class laws. Colorado and several other states extend the standard laws passed the federal level. The extension includes political ideology and sexual orientation as protected classes.
The baker would be legally bound to provide the service to the KKK patron. Would I want to render services for Nazi’s? No. But as the baker, I would be legally obligated to provide non-discriminatory service. The refusal to do so would violate the law. Personal Opinions aside, in the case of the Craig/Mullins v. Phillips, the same decision must hold.
Strong emotions and opinions surround this case. In the end, the supreme court will decide this case based on the law. Often, we are so anxious to pick a side that we fail to see the facts behind the story. My exercise helped me to understand Phillips rationale. But, it also increased my position that Craig and Mullins deserved service under the law.
Seeking first to understand is vital to a diverse and understanding society. We may still come to the same conclusions, but we are better for putting in the hard work. We may not agree with all laws, but a civilized society recognizes that we must abide by them.
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