On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the now infamous Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Then all hell broke loose. After the Court ruled that a Christian baker didn't have to provide a customized cake for a same-sex marriage he objected to, Democrats eager to appease the LGBT community quickly voiced their outrage. Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi even called the ruling a violation of "fundamental rights" that "fails to uphold equality."
But I'm gay and pro-gay marriage, and even after this decision, I don't think the sky is falling. If anything this ruling, albeit narrow in scope, is a win for individual freedom and the First Amendment — and in the long run, it will be a victory for the gay community as well.
Let's consider the facts of the case. The left tried to portray the
Masterpiece case as a fight for gay rights — CNN even ran multiple headlines calling it a "same-sex marriage case" — but this case was never really about gay marriage. It's about whether gay couples can force others to participate in their wedding ceremonies even when it violates their religious beliefs. Jack Phillips is a Christian baker who was punished by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission after he declined to provide a customized wedding cake to a gay couple because he didn't want to provide an implicit endorsement of a same-sex union. This raises a complex First Amendment question: Do business owners have free speech rights?
This case was never really about gay marriage.
The best answer for everyone, including LGBT people, is an emphatic yes. Business owners are people, and they shouldn't be forced to violate their beliefs to accommodate someone else's convenience. The gay couple in this case could have gotten a cake made for their wedding almost anywhere, but decided they wanted to try and force a Christian baker to serve them. At first glance this might seem harmless — or even appealing if you support gay marriage like I do — but it's dangerous. If Phillips can be forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding, why couldn't a gay baker be forced to bake a cake that says "God hates gay people?"
This almost happened. The same Colorado Civil Rights Commission that ruled against Phillips declined to pursue action against a gay baker in a 2014 case where he refused to serve a Christian activist who wanted anti-gay bible verses inscribed on a cake. But religious affiliation is a protected class just like sexual orientation, so before the Masterpiece ruling, the government could have cracked down on the gay baker and forced him to violate his beliefs as well. Other more conservative state regulatory bodies probably would have. So this ruling isn't just a win for Phillips — it's a win for all Americans who want to live a free society where they can't be forced to compromise their conscience.
Tolerance can't be forced.
Tolerance can't be forced. Activists who really want to increase LGBT acceptance need to seriously rethink their approach, because using the court system or government force to push your ideology onto others only fosters more resistance. Attitudes toward gay marriage are already shifting in a positive direction, but the 30 percent of the country still in opposition can't be convinced through coercion. The left insists that this case is about "gay rights," but no one has the right to force their beliefs onto others — and that kind of ideological animosity isn't exactly endearing. It often backfires, and isn't the way to truly promote tolerance or acceptance.
If anything, this decision didn't go far enough. The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the baker, but it was a narrow ruling in scope, and it didn't hand down any broad declarations protecting free speech or individual conscience rights. The Court focused on the facts of this case, and cited the religious animosity shown by Colorado as an excuse to decline to set a precedent that could be broadly applied to future cases.
A broader pro-liberty decision would have done more to advance individual freedom, and could actually have expanded protections for LGBT Americans as a result. After all, at one time in American history, gay people were persecuted through anti-sodomy laws and even had their children taken away on account of their sexuality.
Surely the gay community can appreciate the necessity of individual freedom and the importance of protecting the First Amendment right to dissent from ideas you disagree with. In the Masterpiece case the Court narrowly protected this right — and in doing so, protected the same LGBT community it appeared to rule against.