Let’s Say It Again – It’s Not, And Never Was, About A Wedding Cake

There’s a ton of debate about the gay wedding cake case, and most of it demonstrates how little people know about the facts surrounding the case. So let’s talk about what actually happened.

1. The wedding cake wasn’t for a gay wedding. The couple was already married. They married out of state. It was for a party, not a wedding.

2. The baker told the couple he wouldn’t bake them a gay wedding cake. (what is a gay wedding cake?) They never even discussed the design. They were looking through a photo album of custom designed cakes the baker made. If you’ve planned a wedding then you know these books – they are a selection of what the bakery offers for special occasions. So, if they hadn’t discussed the cake design then did the baker refuse to make a gay wedding cake or did he refuse to serve a gay couple?

3. Gay wedding cakes

Is this a straight or gay wedding cake?

Also, can we stop expanding the argument to things that never happened. This isn’t about writing “support gay marriage” or putting a swastika or two groom figurines on a cake. No one told Phillips (the baker) what words/symbols/decorations he had to put on a cake, only that he must consistent and apply that rule to heterosexuals as well. Once again: A baker is free to not put certain words/symbols/decorations on a cake as long as he applies those rules to all customers. So, let’s stop expanding the debate to things (support gay marrige/swastikas/figurines) that have nothing to do with this case and the baker can already refuse to do.

4. The religious argument. These bakers, photographers, etc. aren’t refusing adulterers or divorcees, even though Matthew 5:32 states:

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Obviously this isn’t about their devout faith, because they’re far too selective about who they exclude. But if it is, can they refuse to make cakes for Muslims? Jews? Hindus? Why not?

You wanna cite your religion, then you better follow all of your religion. If you refuse gay customers on religious grounds then you need to refuse divorcees, adulterers, etc.. If you don’t, then you’ve lost your religion argument.

Hmm… if a gay couple and a straight couple want the exact same cake then is it a straight or gay cake?

5. “But, I’m an artist!” nonsense. A bakery is a business, and as such must adhere to regulations. It is a business that’s open to the public – all the public. But let’s flesh out this “artistic” argument and see where it leads. Could Taylor Swift or Bruno Mars say that their music couldn’t be played at a gay wedding? Most chefs would consider themselves artists. Could they refuse to serve their food to gay people? Why not?

That’s where this is heading. Choosing to have this fight over wedding cakes isn’t an accident. Conservatives/Republicans are relying on most people shrugging (Sheesh, it’s only a cake) and not seeing where they’re heading. We’ve had a taste of this with pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions they disagree with on religious grounds. What’s next? Grocery stores? Banks? Hotels? The answer to those questions is ‘yes’, btw.

And these ‘rules’ will expand beyond the LGBTQ community. They’ll expand to non-Christians, black and brown people, women, etc.. It’s the classic Libertarian/free market argument which puts us on the path back to “whites only” signs. Because, you know, if free markets/businesses corrected themselves as some people claim then we wouldn’t have needed the Civil Rights Act. Just sayin’

41 comments on “Let’s Say It Again – It’s Not, And Never Was, About A Wedding Cake

  1. Bullshit through and through. Who the hell are you to tell someone how they practice their religion?

    “Obviously this isn’t about their devout faith, because they’re far too selective about who they exclude”

    The baker refused to participate in their ceremony (attend it to set up cake, etc.). He offered them any of the cakes in the store.

    The gay couple went out of their way looking for a fight. They found it, and they lost.

    They could have gone to hundreds of other bakers, they chose this path.

    • cassandram

      Bigotry is bigotry. Prejudice and racism have a long history of being justified by waving your Bible around and this is just one more story in that long line of bullshit. This baker wanted this couple to know that he would not serve gay people. That is what was important to him. NOT his religion. If he didn’t want to make this cake all he needed to do was to say he was busy. And none of this would have happened.

      • The gays went to the baker’s shop. The baker could have cared less if they went to one of hundreds or thousands of other bake shops. The gays were trying to make a statement and it backfired.

        • pandora

          Nope. Still didn’t read what actually happened.

          And… the gays? Yeah, we got your number.

    • cassandram

    • my religion says people who use acronyms for their anonymous handles are morons. It also says conservatives should be placed in re-education centers until they stop being wastes of carbon. If you dont honor that, you’re oppressing me.

    • pandora

      Yeah, he did not offer them another cake at the time, only after they sued. So stop pretending the baker tried, in any way, to accommodate them at the time. He didn’t. He didn’t even take the time to find out what cake design they wanted before refusing to serve them. And you need to read. The couple was already married. This cake wasn’t for a wedding ceremony. In fact, most cakes aren’t at the ceremony.

      I can most certainly demand people citing their religion in business to be consistent in their religion. If you won’t sell to a gay person because of your religion, then you better apply that religious standard to everything else your religion says is a sin. Otherwise, you’re not following your religion, you’re just discriminating.

      They could have gone to hundreds of other bakers, they chose this path. There are many places that only have one baker, banker, pharmacist, etc.. What’s your answer then?

      How about if clothing designers said LGBTQ people couldn’t wear their clothes, like a wedding dress? They’re artists, right? How would that work? Would stores have to have a LGBTQ section? That’s where we’re heading, and you seem to be a-okay with that.

      • No, it’s not. The baker was perfectly willing to sell them a cake. Just not to bake one specifically for their ceremony and to not attend that ceremony.

        Seems pretty reasonable until the gays decided to turn it into a war… which they lost.

        • pandora

          You keep making things up. The baker only offered them a cake after they sued. And why do you keep ignoring the fact that there was no ceremony? They were already married. This was a reception, a party, not a ceremony.

          And again… the gays? Who talks like this?

          • So, what am I making up exactly? Did he offer them a cake or not?

            Who sues a business instead of just going to the one down the street?

            Someone looking for a fight.

            • pandora

              You’re making up:

              1. That this was a wedding ceremony
              2. Your wording that the baker offered to make them a cake comes across that the offer was made at the time he refused them. He didn’t.

              Now, I’ve answered your questions, you need to answer mine.

              • I think if they are ordering a cake then we can agree to call it a ceremony. Or how about a celebration? Wait, a party? No, let’s call it an observance! A rite! No wait, a commemoration!

                Are you going to tell me that the get together at which the cake was going to be consumed had nothing to do with their marriage?

                Gays is not OK? How about, “the couple”. Is that OK with the PC police?

                • pandora

                  So, no anniversary cakes either? Your list keeps expanding. We’re approaching…No party/celebration cakes for the LGBTQ community, but I think that’s the point. (That’s one way of addressing people. Or you could use gay couple. This isn’t hard.)

                  • Plenty of atheist bakers out there, I’m quite sure. Nice business opportunity for them. Or how about gay bakers? Hmmmm. How about a gay baker that refuses to make a wedding cake for a Christian couple…. the mind reels. Enjoy your weekend.

                    • pandora

                      Newsflash: There are towns with only one baker. What then?

                      But this entire episode is try and pave the way for other businesses (pharmacists, delis, banks, doctors, etc.) to do the same thing. Cassandra posted images of signs above – that’s where all this is headed.

        • delacrat

          If the baker refused to do business with heterosexuals, you would be OK with that ?

          • only if they were MAGAts. those people dont deserve to be served by anyone.

          • Sure. The baker who replaces him when he goes out of business won’t make the same mistake.

            Verdicts in the court of public opinion are much faster, and often more appropriate, than those in the courts of law.


          • Depends on the circumstances. Depends on why he refused to do business with them.

            • snewton929

              If you take that position–//Depends on why he refused to do business with them./// You have just invalidated the entire religious conscience issue. The only possible argument to make here is for the baker to have the right to trade or not to trade for any reason or no reason. Now that you have implied that the reason itself matters, you have invited in an arbiter, and that arbiter has to be the State by definition.

              Funny how these things work.

              • Your logic here is seriously flawed. There are unlimited shades of grey in between the black and white of “for any reason” and “for no reason”.

            • pandora

              Whaaaat? Now it depends on the circumstances?

              • Of course it does. That’s why we have courts and lawyers and stuff.

            • delacrat

              So you are OK with refusing to do business with homo’s and hetero’s, you’d sure have a hard time meeting any sales objectives.

              • I didn’t say I was, I said I was fine with the baker refusing to do business with someone. More business for me.

                • pandora

                  Ah, the free market stuff. It never worked that way, hence the Civil Rights Act. If businesses did what you claim, we’d never have needed that Act.

  2. From what I understand in reading the opinion, the basis for the decision was that the Colorado anti-discrimination agency unconstitutionally displayed religious bias when it sanctioned the baker.

    The court said “Phillips too was entitled to a neutral and respectful consideration of his claims in all the circumstances of the case. That consideration was compromised, however, by the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case, which showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection.”

    Further, “the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case violated the State’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint. The government, consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise, cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices.”

    “As the record shows, some of the commissioners at the Commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed the view that
    religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. No commissioners objected to the comments. Nor were they mentioned in the later state-court ruling or disavowed in the briefs filed here. The comments thus cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case.”

    This was a very narrow ruling applicable only to this specific case. In short, loose lips (the Commissioners) sink ships. “State law at the time also afforded storekeepers some latitude to decline to create specific messages they considered offensive. Indeed, while the instant enforcement proceedings were pending, the State Civil Rights Division
    concluded in at least three cases that a baker acted lawfully in declining to create cakes with decorations that demeaned gay persons or gay marriages.” The Commission’s open hostility towards religion/beliefs set the stage for the decision.

    Ultimately and regardless of what the far right believes, this case is not a precedent for the future. They will believe it is, but then they won’t have read the decision, so they will believe what they are told by folks like Hannity.

    • cassandram

      Yes, this decision was fairly narrow towards the process by which Colorado decided this. It won’t be applied to broader cases. However, the bigoted Trump voters still think that they won the right to be belligerently bigoted.

    • pandora

      Yep, yep, yep! Loose lips made this case extremely narrow.

      But we all know that there are more of these cases coming.

  3. snewton929

    As far as the decision goes, it was as narrowly based as it could be, because (no matter what you think of the baker or the case) the Colorado commission’s treatment of him in the hearing was beyond the pale. I will see if I can find a link to the transcripts. More to the point, the decision on that basis was 7-2, and they actually had a 9-0 agreement on the commission’s poor conduct (Ginsberg wanted to smite the commission but still rule against the baker; while I like her rhetoric, I don’t think you can do both.)

    What’s missing here in a lot of dialogue is exactly how the “religious freedom” argument is being misused when blended with the libertarian-conservative “freedom to trade or not to trade for any reason or no reason” argument.

    In a purely free-market system this would make some sense (at least theoretically), but that’s not what we have here. Here we have a system in which businesses are highly subsidized by the rest of us; to wit:

    1. Preferential tax status
    2. Use of licensing regulations to keep down competition
    3. Subsidiary profits from collecting taxes
    4. State-based protection of intellectual property rights, and (most applicably)
    5. Limited personal liability status maintained by the State at the general cost of everybody else

    (Note: I don’t even have to make the infrastructure/interstate commerce arguments settled by the Slaughterhouse Cases)

    The point is, when your customers (as taxpayers) are subsidizing you through the State, and you are taking advantage of the State’s protections, then you have obligated yourself to play by the State’s rules. So you no longer have a free-market argument.

    There’s a subsidiary argument as well: if you accept that the State can tell you who you do not have to serve (by passing a “religious conscience bill”), then you are de facto accepting the concept that the State has the power to tell you who you must serve (by passing “non-discrimination” bills).

    The final bottom line for me is that this is not about the right to refuse service on the basis of religious conviction, but about the power to engage in public shaming of people who do not think or live like you believe they should.

    That isn’t actually part of the “original intent” of Christianity as I read the NT.

    • Why should convictions have to be religious to be protected? Another flaw in Constitutional design.

      @pandora: I chose the swastika cake example to try to put forward what I think the real philosophical issue is — should people be free to pursue the dictates of their conscience? I didn’t pose the question so people could play “find the flaw in the analogy.” People who play that game are generally looking to evade the question I was trying to pose, whatever the flaws in the question’s design.

      And the cake in that photo? Totally gay.

      • pandora

        I didn’t know you put forth that argument. I’ve been hearing that example for a really long time. It pops up in every discussion and comment section.

        LOL about the cake!

        But that pictured cake is the real issue. The baker would not sell them that cake, but he would sell that exact cake to a straight couple. Same cake, different customers.

        • I hate cake. I didn’t even eat any at my daughter’s wedding. I’m still trying to convince the world that wedding pie would be a vast improvement.

          • C’mon Alby. A nice moist marbled cake with butter cream frosting? Even an old grump like you has to admit that is pretty good.

            Although I will admit that a nice apple pie a la mode with a slice of cheese would taste pretty damn good at a wedding, hetero or homo.

            • I do have a friend who bakes the best, moistest cakes imaginable. Her cakes I’ll eat. The rest? Too bland unless it’s chocolate, and I’m not a big chocolate fan.

              I didn’t say I didn’t like frosting.

    • Certainly the most circular argument I have read in quite a while… Very high verbiage to actual content ratio, not surprising for an academic.

      Paraphrasing, “the state enables your business to exist through regulation, therefore you must follow those regulations”.

      No shit Sherlock. Nobody is arguing that point. Although the way you said it sounded an awful lot like “you didn’t build that”, but you are a pinko liberal so an inherent distaste towards private enterprise and capitalism is par for the course.

      The question in an individual case is if these regulations constitute a violation of your Constitutional right to freedom of religion. And no matter how much you try to parse it, the Supreme Court has pretty clearly stated that in this case the answer was YES.

      • snewton929

        @XYZ: You’d have to be exceptionally dim not to recognize a libertarian argument–a standard libertarian argument, by the way. Since multiple arguments seem to confuse you, let’s try it with a single example, so that you can keep up:

        1. You choose to invest capital and open a business.
        2. Rather than accepting liability for your own actions, you go to the State and ask permission (while paying a fee) to give you limited personal liability, which means that if you screw somebody over (even to the point of destroying their lives) the State will use armed force to prevent them from going after your personal assets in court.
        3. The State acquires and enforces the ability to do so through involuntary taxation on other citizens.

        This means that you have asked the State for special favors and given your tacit permission to the State to use force against your fellow citizens to pay for your special favors.

        4. Having empowered the State by becoming its client, instead of standing on your own two feet in a free market and accepting your own risks, you now become subject to the laws and regulations that other people think the State should impose on you.
        5. Thus, when Black people, or LBGTQ people, or Muslim people, who all pay coercive taxes to the State decide the lobby the State for non-discrimination statutes, you are subject to them. In libertarian theory you made yourself subject to them by asking the State for special favors at their expense.
        6. Ergo, you don’t get to invoke your free market right to trade or not to trade “for any reason,” because you now have to justify your reasons to the State.

        This has nothing at all to do with Elizabeth Warren’s “you didn’t build that” argument; it has everything to do with explaining that American businesses do not exist in a free market, they exist in a State-regulated market.

        It is, fully descriptive of your lack of political knowledge that you mistake a libertarian argument for a “pinko” one, and that–in your ignorance–instead of responding, you go for the ad hominem.

  4. “There’s a ton of debate about the gay wedding cake case, and most of it demonstrates how little people know about the facts surrounding the case.”

    I should clarify that I couldn’t care less about the facts of this specific case. Court cases are decided on that basis, but as you point out in your lede, this isn’t about wedding cakes, even though there are numerous such court cases around the country. That alone tells you it’s not about the cakes.

    The only part of this that interests me is whether people are free to follow their consciences and how and to what degree that freedom is limited by law. What troubles me most is that a person’s conscientious objections are protected only if they are religious in nature, and that claims of such protection are not challenged as valid.

    The protection of religion under the Constitution has the effect of making some Americans more equal than others.

    • pandora

      I would say a baker, or other business that serves the public, needs to set standards of what they will and will not do and then stick to them.

      I’d say that swastikas and political messages (Go Liberals! Go Conservatives!) don’t really apply because these aren’t protected classes under civil rights laws.

      Completely agree with your protection of religion point.

  5. snewton929

    @alby: ///Why should convictions have to be religious to be protected? Another flaw in Constitutional design.///

    Not so much a flaw as an anachronism. When the Constitution was written, all natural rights and all moral/philosophical convictions were generally held (within the American sub-section of the Enlightenment) to arise from religious or religious/philosophical belief. Eurythro’s dilemma was not a part of the dialogue in America between 1775-1787, but established churches within States were. Moral assertions aside (“Almighty God has created the mind free”–Jefferson), the statutes governing freedom of religion were for the most part defensive. Nobody would have been dissatisfied with seeing his own church established, but everybody was afraid his denomination wouldn’t come out on top. So “no winner” was infinitely better than “somebody else wins, I lose.”

    Point being: the underlying basis of Constitutional thinking in terms of moral conviction is essentially defensive and pragmatic, and we have not, as a society, evolved far from that.

    Having said that, maybe I just made your argument for a flaw. Oh well.

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