Back in late January 2013, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon refused to serve a same-sex couple when they tried to order a wedding cake. Last week, the bakery announced they were closing their store, but would still operate as an in-home business.
The couple filed a discrimination complaint against Sweet Cakes, alleging that the bakery violated Oregon laws pertaining to discrimination against LGBQT individuals. Under Oregon law,
A place of public accommodation, subject to the exclusion in subsection (2) of this section, means any place or service offering to the public accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges whether in the nature of goods, services, lodgings, amusements or otherwise.
Further, it says
all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is 18 years of age or older.
In a dispute between religion and sexual orientation, who should win?
Sweet Cakes’ stated position is that they will sell cakes to anyone regardless of sexual orientation. The dispute arose because Rachel Cryer ordered a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. And here’s an interesting point: Oregon doesn’t recognize same-sex weddings.
I’m already on record with regard to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage to be a basic civil right that should be recognized nationwide. I don’t understand how a state can say “We’ll recognize some marriages that can’t occur in our state, but not others.” But that’s the way it is right now.
But if the state doesn’t recognize the event you’re trying to celebrate, how can you be discriminated against? Cryer and Bowman weren’t celebrating a wedding. They couldn’t be celebrating a same-sex wedding in Oregon, because the state doesn’t allow them. So could they be discriminated against?
Why would you want to force a bakery or other similar vendor to provide a service like this? Don’t you want someone who’s going to provide the absolute best service they can? Are they likely to do so at figurative gunpoint?
For that matter, how are you going to prove discrimination if their oven “breaks down” or their staff “gets sick?” The photographer’s camera breaks, or the batteries go dead, or the files are corrupted. No, I don’t think something like that is ethical. But if a vendor does it, how would you prove it was deliberate?
The scary part of this case for me is that it opens the gate for people to try and force a particular church or denomination to perform their wedding. If religious beliefs are not enough reason to deny service by a bakery, will they be enough for a church?
Section 2. Freedom of worship. All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.
Section 3. Freedom of religious opinion. No law shall in any case whatever control the free exercise, and enjoyment of religeous [sic] opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience.
Same-sex marriage advocates have long said they just want the right to be married, and I support that. But this has the potential to allow one group to “interfere with the rights of conscience” of others.