New battle over same-sex marriage: Cake and photos

When the Minnesota Legislature convenes in St. Paul next month, it’ll head for a showdown over whether businesses who don’t favor same-sex marriage should be required to do business with same-sex couples. How broad the legislation is isn’t entirely clear yet, since it hasn’t been filed.

Perhaps we’re seeing a preview of it in Michigan this week where that state’s Senate may take action on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, legislation that’s similar to 19 states that have laws that either preserve religious liberty or undermine local non-discrimination ordinances or other state laws, depending on whom you talk to.

“People of faith need to be able to know that they can practice their faith in the way, in the tradition that their family has over many, many years, without being afraid of somehow violating the law,” incoming freshman Josh Heintzeman of Nisswa said last month in suggesting legislation that might give businesses a pass from the state human rights law in matters of doing business with gays.

Today, the New York Times looks at the increase in pushback from some wedding vendors.

“I do like doing the wedding cakes,” one Colorado cake maker at the heart of a battle in that state said. “But I don’t like having the government tell me which ones I can make and which ones I can’t make, and trying to control that part of my life.”

But the defenders of the shop owners argue that creating an artistically involved or personalized service for a same-sex wedding is a form of expression that should not be compelled by the government. They reject the discrimination charge, noting that many of the businesses have gay and lesbian customers, and, in some cases, employees.

“Anyone who would suggest this is not about freedom of religion doesn’t know or understand what religious liberty is about, which is the freedom to do what your conscience directs,” said Alan Sears, the president of the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Mr. Sears says he has experienced his own form of bias: He says that a photographer in Southern California declined to shoot a portrait of his family for a Christmas card after discovering that Mr. Sears heads an organization that opposes same-sex marriage. Mr. Sears said he supported the photographer’s right to refuse service, just as he would support a gay baker’s right to refuse to make a cake with an anti-gay message.

Vendors thus far have accumulated a losing streak in wedding and similar cases. In Kentucky, for example, a hearing officer recently ruled against a print shop owner who refused to make T-shirts for a gay pride group.

How many instances there are of businesses refusing to do business with gays is hard to pin down, the Times suggests, because many couples simply move on when they learn a business isn’t interested in being part of the ceremony.

Related: Minnesota: A religious-freedom enclave (for now) (Star Tribune).

A Baker Refused to Make Your Wedding Cake? (Slog).

  • Robert Moffitt

    Imagine the uproar if some wedding cake bakers and photographers refused to provide services to Christians…or African-Americans…or Jews. It’s hard to see how baking a cake or snapping a photo of a same-sex couple infringes on anyone’s religious liberties. At least it’s hard for me to see.

  • davehoug

    When we passed anti-discrimination laws who knew one day a Bed and Breakfast operator could be legally required to allow gay couples in the next bedroom???? IS it discrimination or religious freedom???

    I bet it feels like a discrimination issue to the couple when it happens…….I bet it feels like a religious freedom issue on the other side. I hope the debate does not drop into name-calling and questioning moral character.

    • BJ

      I imagine anyone that put sexual orientation in to a anti discrimination law had exactly a B&B in mind.
      edit: spelling

    • >>When we passed anti-discrimination laws who knew one day a Bed and Breakfast operator could be legally required to allow gay couples in the next bedroom???? <<

      Substitute the term "mixed race" or "Muslim" for "gay" in your sentence and see what happens.

    • KTN

      Heart of Atlanta (1964). The Court ruled that the Heart of Atlanta motel could not discriminate against black travelers by not renting them rooms. This was a case decided (9-)) after the Civil Rights Act, where Justice Clark wrote

      “The Court noted that the applicability of Title II was “carefully
      limited to enterprises having a direct and substantial relation to the
      interstate flow of goods and people. . .” The Court thus concluded that
      places of public accommodation had no “right” to select guests as they
      saw fit, free from governmental regulation”.

    • to_tell_the_truth

      ‘When we passed anti-discrimination laws who knew one day a Bed and Breakfast operator could be legally required to allow inter-racial couples in the next bedroom???? IS it discrimination or religious freedom???’

      Or …

      ‘When we passed anti-discrimination laws who knew one day a Bed and Breakfast operator could be legally required to allow inter-faith couples in the next bedroom???? IS it discrimination or religious freedom???’

      George

    • percykins

      “When we passed anti-discrimination laws who knew one day a Bed and Breakfast operator could be legally required to allow gay couples in the next bedroom????”

      Huh? The law makes it illegal for public accommodations to discriminate against gay people – how would it not clearly apply to a B&B?

  • John

    Does anyone here know what the legal requirements are for hiring? Is sexuality one of the things that is protected from discrimination when making hiring decisions (I can’t remember right now)? I know age, race and gender are, but I can’t remember if sexuality is.

    If it is, i.e. if you can’t use someone’s sexuality as a basis for hiring/not hiring them, then I think all these laws that allow business people to refuse to do business will relatively quickly be struck down as a civil rights action, because it’s easy enough to draw a parallel between hiring requirements and refusing to do business with someone. If sexuality isn’t on the list of no-no’s for hiring decisions, then I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride. I assume it’s not included in the striking down of separate but equal (which might not be applicable, since there’s no separate but equal here – there’s a flat out refusal to provide services).

    • According to the state Human Rights Act:

      Subd. 2.Employer.

      Except when based on a bona fide occupational qualification, it is an unfair employment practice for an employer, because of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, familial status, membership or activity in a local commission, disability, sexual orientation, or age to:

      (1) refuse to hire or to maintain a system of employment which unreasonably excludes a person seeking employment; or

      (2) discharge an employee; or

      (3) discriminate against a person with respect to hiring, tenure, compensation, terms, upgrading, conditions, facilities, or privileges of employment.

      • John

        My guess is that these laws won’t last in MN then. I take it the MN Human Right Act is an expansion of the federal Human Rights Act, so on a federal level, it’ll take longer (which it always does, and should – since the implications are greater and undoing federal mistakes is even tougher than passing the law in the first place).

        sigh. . . it’s always the incoming freshman who think they are going to be able to do whatever they want once they get to the capital, isn’t it?

        • BJ

          Sexual orientation has been a part of the MN Human Rights act, the section mentioned above, since at least 1995 (that’s as far back as I looked).

          Why would a 20 year old law not last in Minnesota?

          Or are you saying the ‘discrimanatory’ laws would not last?

          I can’t see, even a GOP controlled house and senate, passing anything similar in Minnesota. That is not to say that we will not see some individual authoring a bill that goes no where. Like Josh Heintzeman is suggesting.

          • John

            Sorry – I wasn’t clear. I was trying to say that the law allowing businesses to refuse to serve customers based on sexual orientation would not last.

            I think the court would strike down a law that allows a business to refuse service to someone of a given sexual orientation.

    • to_tell_the_truth

      What business of the employer’s is the sexual orientation of an employee in the first place?

      George

      • John

        As far as I’m concerned, It is none of the employers business. period. The only thing that matters is whether or not the potential employee can do the job at hand.

        However, there are those among us who have the idea that they will only help (or employ or associate with) people who match their preconceived notions of XXX – you pick.

        I think that was the whole point of the Human Rights Act in the first place.

  • jon

    So in the industry of weddings… the total number of weddings has gone down (cause young people aren’t getting married like they used to), the market is shrinking… EXCEPT that now we have a whole new group of people who are allowed to marry, and there are companies who look at the market and say “No I don’t want a piece of the only growing portion of the market.”

    Though with Corporations being people now, people that have a right to freedom of speech (money) and freedom of religion… it seems realistic that these laws could be upheld, at least in the short term.

    Though I wonder if corporations have a rights that include unreasonable searches and seizures… seems like if they did that would put a quick end to NSA meta data collection…. though I’ve wandered a bit off topic.

  • Kofender

    For the life of me, I’m having a hard time understanding this whole issue. In order to operate in the public market, an establishment MUST obtain a business license, where it promises to abide by (and follow) the law. It is the cost of being a public accommodation. If a business refuses to obey the law, it can be fined, cited, and ultimately shut down. Nondiscrimination is baked into many municipalities’ ordinances. None of these businesses have the right to break the law, no matter what the religion of the owner might be. If they don’t like the rules, they don’t have to stay open. It is as simple as that.

  • Reminder: Comments are required to use real names and real email addresses . All others are deleted.

    • to_tell_the_truth

      I like this policy, but how do I change my screen name with Discus to show my real name (George)?

      Until I get a reply, I’m just adding my real name to my posts. Discus has my real e-mail address too, btw.

      Thanks in advance.

      George

      • John

        I log in via Twitter, so it shows my Twitter name as my name in the field. (In other words, I had to change my twitter handle from “John Doe” to “John” because my last name isn’t Doe, but I don’t want my last name out in my Twitter handle . . . because I’m paranoid like that.

        (I may also be violating the policy by first name only, but I think Bob is probably getting at those who show up with a fake name and then troll like crazy).

        I assume my real email address is associated with my handle, though I’ve never actually checked (If there is an email address, then it’s real.)

        Disqus kinda sucks, but it’s ubiquitous and works as well as any of them, so until something better comes along, I think we’re stuck with it.

      • John

        I wanted to change my picture, so I went and figured it out.

        Click the down triangle by your name (at the top of the comments). Select “Edit Settings.”

        Click the gear in the upper right corner of the page that opens. Then select “Edit Profile” from the drop down.

        Your visible name is right there.

        (That was way harder than it should have been.) Hope it helped. I’m going to delete this comment if your name changes to George. (sorry for the off topic posts.)

  • Knute

    First off, I think this is discrimination and it is shameful. But if I was being rejected as a customer because of something like my sexual orientation, I wouldn’t want to fight for service from the rejector. Maybe it’s just my passive nature, but I would fear for the quality of the service if it were awarded. Would they spit in my cake batter? Would they intentionally miss good photo opportunities?
    It would see to me the best thing to do would be to go to a vendor who supports you, and support them in return. I wouldn’t want to give my business to the offending vendor. Since they are so strong about their religious believes, I’m sure that money from my business would have ended up in the offering plate anyway. That would only further contribute to their ability to spread more hate.

    • to_tell_the_truth

      How does a potential customer know which businesses are ‘supporters’ unless they ask for a service/product and get refused?
      For that matter, why should a customer even have to be concerned with the beliefs of a merchant in what is basically a secular business transaction?

      George

  • Robert Moffitt

    I’m tempted to contact my cousin Terry, who bakes wedding cakes in a rather conservative state (Indiana) that was recently required to recognize same-sex marriage by a judge’s order, for her take on this. But in the interest of family harmony, I’ll just let that idea go.

    • to_tell_the_truth

      A merchant’s “take” is (and should be) immaterial. They simply need to obey the secular public accommodations laws and they’ll be just fine.
      And, again, why should a merchant’s beliefs even come into play in what is a secular business transaction to begin with?
      George

      • Nick

        By that logic a Kosher Deli could be forced to prepare a pastrami and cheese sandwich.

        • No, not really. It’s a matter of EQUAL protection. That is, if you provide a service to one, you cannot deny the SAME service to another on the basis of those items already enumerated. So,no, a kosher deli could not prepare a pastrami and cheese sandwich to someone and then refuse service to another on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.

        • to_tell_the_truth

          No, Nick, they could not. They don’t offer that product … to ANYONE … equally.
          If they DID offer it, they’d have to offer it to ALL customers … equally.
          It’s called the 14th Amendment. Read up on it.
          George

    • percykins

      Note that same-sex marriage has nothing to do with any of this – the anti-discrimination laws apply to gay people having commitment ceremonies as well as weddings. (And Indiana does not have an anti-discrimination law.)

  • Rich in Duluth

    The civil rights legislation of the 60s took rights away from institutions (colleges, restaurants, bus companies, schools, businesses, etc.) and gave rights to individuals. Having grown up in the south during the 50s and 60s, I can assure you that those people I knew, who believed in racial segregation, held those beliefs “strongly” and could even quote verses in the bible to back up their beliefs. These were not bad people. They loved their children, mowed their lawns, pledged allegiance to the flag, and worked hard at their jobs and businesses. But, they were still bigots and wrong to discriminate.

    Bigotry toward the GLBT community is no different than racial bigotry. Any freshman legislator who suggests withdrawing rights from individuals shows his ignorance of history and lack of wisdom.

    • jon

      Give me [individual] liberty [for corporations] or give me death.

    • to_tell_the_truth

      How can someone be “bigots and wrong to discriminate” AND be “not bad people”???
      This does not compute.
      George

      • Rich in Duluth

        George

        These people were law abiding, productive members of society. They paid their taxes, went to work, kissed their kids goodnight and, otherwise, did appropriate things within society. Discrimination, segregation, and “knowing” that black folks were not entitled to equal treatment were part of that culture. But they were not “bad” people; they just held some beliefs that flew in the face of reason and fairness to all people.

        To a kid whose parents came from a liberal, northern culture, it was awful to see. It “computes” if you understand, but maybe you’d have to live it to understand it.

        Rich

        • to_tell_the_truth

          People who hold beliefs that fly in the face of reason and fairness – and act in a discriminatory fashion to SOME members of the public because of those irrational beliefs – are NOT nice people. They’re prejudiced.

          And believe me, as a gay man, I HAVE ‘lived’ the experience of unjust discrimination – for more than 60 years. Stop being an apologist for irrationality.

          George

          • Rich in Duluth

            George

            I’m not going to argue who is or isn’t a nice person. Suffice to say that I am personally against discrimination toward anyone. If a person is in business to serve the public, they should serve all of the public. And we should have strong laws ensuring that nondiscrimination.

            Rich

  • DJ Wambeke

    “businesses refusing to do business with gays”

    This way of phrasing the issue misconstrues what the issue is about. No business in question is saying, “oh, you’re gay? Then I won’t do business with you.” In each and every case, it is an activity that the business owner wishes to not participate in. Everyone – gay, straight, whatever – is free to (and does) conduct business with these establishments all the time. There are just certain services or products the businesses don’t wish to offer, because it is a violation of their conscience to do so.

    • Robert Moffitt

      If you’re a photographer who won’t shoot same-sex ceremonies, or a wedding cake baker who refuses to put two tiny grooms or brides on top of the cake, that’s refusing to do business, based solely on marital status/sexual orientation. The Chinese Menu Rule does not apply. The activity, for all practical purposes, IS the business service. You can’t just select which services you’re willing to offer a couple based only on their gender.
      Bottom line: the customer is always right, regardless of their gender. If a wedding vendor is not willing to play by the new rules, then perhaps it’s time for them to start a business somewhere else. Russia, perhaps. Anywhere in the Middle East. Perhaps at the Vatican City, but business will be limited.

      • DJ Wambeke

        The activity, for all practical purposes, IS the business service”
        Is it? Who, then, gets to decide what the “activity” is that the business provides? Is a kosher deli out of line for only providing kosher meats on its menu? They are hardly a full-service meat market. Doesn’t that discriminate against gentiles, based solely on the basis of religion? Using an example quoted the OP above, would a gay baker not be within his/her rights to refuse to bake a cake with a “marriage = 1 man/1 woman” statement on it? The “activity” is baking cakes, after all….

        • >>Is a kosher deli out of line for only providing kosher meats on its menu? They are hardly a full-service meat market. Doesn’t that discriminate against gentiles, based solely on the basis of religion?<<

          This example is a very poor one. The deli isn't discriminating at all unless they actually forbade gentiles from purchasing their kosher food based on religious reasons.

          • Dave

            The creativity of flimsy analogies never ceases to amaze me. You’d think with the mental gymnastics required to dream them up, they could go one step further and realize that it’s abject BS. Sadly, no.

        • GregW

          “Is a kosher deli out of line for only providing kosher meats on its menu?”

          As popular as it is, that’s a terrible analogy as someone else already noted. Instead, consider the kosher deli that refuses to sell you the rolls that they stock because they find out you’re going to use them for pulled pork sandwiches.

          This is really the crux of the matter. None of these merchants is being asked to do anything extraordinary. They’re being asked to do what they’re in business to do, and refusing service prejudicially.

        • Robert Moffitt

          It’s all in context. Personally, I enjoy eating at both kosher and halal establishments, and I have never felt anything but welcome. Let’s say a gay baker takes over a business in a small town — they are only game in town for wedding cakes — and he/she announces they won’t do cakes for straights. Is this person in the wrong? Heck, yes. Bigotry knows no gender, race or orientation. It cuts all ways.

          Legislation against discrimination isn’t a restriction of religious freedom. It offers us a chance at liberating our hearts, minds and souls that we might otherwise be too fearful — or just too ignorant — to accept on our own. Government can’t tell us how to feel, or what to believe. But it can lay out some rules on how we should all play nice together, as best we can

          • DJ Wambeke

            Is there any circumstance in which you would condone someone refusing their normal business service based upon their deeply-held ethical principles?

            Let’s say, for example, that Fred Phelps’ congregation comes to a print shop for a new set of banners for their next protest. Let’s say, further, that the owner of the print shop is Catholic, and as such believes that God loves everyone, and so refuses, on principle, to print banners with a message that says that God hates some people.

            That owner has refused, based upon his religious/ethical principles, his business activity to a group of people in order to not participate in what they are doing. He’s not “playing nice” with the Phelps’s. Is he within his rights to do so?

          • Dave

            What if, for example, a three-armed ugly blue alien from Rigel 3 came to earth and went to a Catholic bumper sticker factory and demanded bumper stickers that read “Humans are terrible and I will kill them all.” I mean, is he within his rights?

          • Nick

            That’s right, deflect when you can’t answer the question. The point being that most people have a point where they would say a business should be able to refuse to work with a customer.

          • Dave

            Sure, they have a point. A stupid point.

            Also, what question? The hypothetical he made up that does not at all pertain to the thing that happened?

          • to_tell_the_truth

            You don’t ‘get’ satire, do you?
            George

          • Robert Moffitt

            Said owner could refuse because the message is insulting and inflammatory on its own merits. You’re right, not everyone deserves nice play. So he could be true to his faith without proclaiming it as his reason for refusing service.
            Render to Caesar (the government) the things that are Caesar’s (obedience to the law), and to God the things that are God’s.

          • DJ Wambeke

            “the message is insulting and inflammatory on its own merits.”
            Says who?

            For the record, I agree with you that it’s insulting and inflammatory, btw. Just pointing out here that in saying so you (and I) are bringing an ethical judgment on it. (The law has nothing to do with it; there’s nothing illegal about printing inflammatory posters.) Whether an ethical judgment like this is based on faith (Catholicism) or reason (it’s inflammatory) it’s still a judgment pertaining to one’s personal ethics. Which is kind of where I’ve been noodling your opinion – does someone ever have the right to refuse, on ethical grounds, to participate in a business activity requested by a potential customer? It would seem, based upon your response here, you would have to say “yes”, at least in principle (even if you wouldn’t like it to be invoked often).

          • John

            Distasteful as it may be, nope, the printer has to do the job. He can’t refuse on religious grounds to provide the service. Sucks, but that’s life.

            Now, that being said, there’s nothing stopping him from telling everyone in town that Phelps and his monkeys are in town and need to be met with a counter-protest of epic proportions, and gee whiz, look who just happens to have printed up a big pile of banners that might just help with that kind of adventure. (paid for with the profits from the Phelps job, for which he quoted them three times his normal rate, assuming he prints banners on a quote basis, and not from a standard, publicly visible, price list).

          • GregW

            In a word: no.

          • BJ

            Nope. That shop owner would not be able to refuse Phelps’ request.

          • DJ Wambeke

            That’s pretty harsh! But at least it’s intellectually consistent.

          • BJ

            I will despise the bastards who say vile things, but I will protect their right to say vile things.
            Just as I protect people who simply wish to order a cake to be able to order a cake.

        • to_tell_the_truth

          Re: “The activity, for all practical purposes, IS the business service.

          Is it?”

          Yes. It IS. They are in business to make a profit by selling cakes or flowers to the public (and that means ALL of the public).

          Re: “Who, then, gets to decide what the “activity” is that the business provides?”

          The merchant who opened the business – to the public – gets to decide if they want to sell flowers or not (if they’re a florist), but they don’t get to decide to WHOM they will sell them if they are open to the public. Selling flowers is the business activity they have chosen to earn their living.

          Re: ” Is a kosher deli out of line for only providing kosher meats on its menu?”

          Faulty analogy. The deli owner has chosen to sell kosher meats to the public. That is the business activity they have chosen. But, they must then sell those kosher meats to ANY member of the public who walks in the door and is willing to pay the asking price for the product the merchant has chosen to sell. (P.S. Lots of gentiles enjoy kosher food. I am one of them.)

          Re: “would a gay baker not be within his/her rights to refuse to bake a cake with a “marriage = 1 man/1 woman” statement on it?”
          Wrong analogy (again). NO gay couple has ever asked for a cake with “Straight marriage is wrong” on it. They want what the rest of the public want: a cake that says “Best wishes for a happy marriage, Pat and Chris”. Not one syllable needs to be changed.
          Stop being an apologist for religiously prejudiced merchants.
          George

        • to_tell_the_truth

          Re: “Is a kosher deli out of line for only providing kosher meats on its menu? They are hardly a full-service meat market.”
          What an idiotic analogy. It isn’t the product that is being discriminated against; it’s some customers. If they refuse to sell their kosher meats to SOME customers, THAT is the discrimination. And some of us gentiles LOVE kosher food. I seriously doubt a kosher deli would even inquire as to the religious beliefs OR the sexual orientation of its customers before selling to them … ALL of them, without discrimination. I’ve never been asked either question at The Dill in our town.
          If jews can do it, ‘christians’ should be able to too.
          Sheesh!
          George

        • John

          The business gets to decide WHAT activity they provide. They do not get to decide to WHOM they get to provide it (or get to refuse to provide it), at least within the protected classes. That’s the critical difference.

          The gay couple is not asking the cake maker to do something outside his/her normal business practice. Make a cake – that’s all, just like they do for everyone else. The cake maker might be able to say “nope, I won’t put two grooms on it – I don’t stock that cake topper. You can add it yourself after delivery if you want.”

          Now, the cake maker has not discriminated because of gay marriage – he/she doesn’t stock the component. (he’s still a jerk though). But, he/she might have to bake a cake and sell it for money.

          • BJ

            >The cake maker might be able to say “nope, I won’t put two grooms on it – I don’t stock that cake topper. You can add it yourself after delivery if you want.”

            Even that is dicey, if they even special order one for another couple that is out the window.

    • to_tell_the_truth

      Re: “No business in question is saying, “oh, you’re gay? Then I won’t do business with you.”

      That is precisely what is happening.

      Re: “There are just certain services or products the businesses don’t wish to offer, because it is a violation of their conscience to do so.”
      Sorry, but florists sell flowers and bakers sell cakes. That is how they earn their living. It is hardly a “violation of their conscience to do so”.
      And, what of the conscience of their CUSTOMERS?
      Why should the beliefs of the merchant trump those of the customers in what is, in essence, a commercial, for-profit, secular, business transaction?
      George

      • DJ Wambeke

        “in what is, in essence, a commercial, for-profit, secular, business transaction”
        Nothing is purely a commercial, for-profit, secular, business transation. Every business operates under a certain set of ethical (or unethical, as the case may sometimes be) assumptions. Further, customers often choose to shop (or not shop) at establishments based upon purely ethical considerations (how those establishments pay their employees, for example). Don’t like how a bakery operates? Easy solution: go to a different baker.

        • Dave

          Presumably they weren’t concerned with how the bakery paid their employees, because they aren’t suing them over how they pay their employees. They are suing them because they wouldn’t bake a cake for a gay couple on the basis of that couple being gay.

          Frankly, if I’m a business owner, and somebody comes into my establishment looking to spend money, I’m going to do what I can to separate that person from his money. Because I like money.

          The bakery deserves to go out of business if for no other reason than failure of Business 101. He could have said, “Ooh, customers!” Instead, he said, “Aww, gays.”

          • John

            This: “Frankly, if I’m a business owner, and somebody comes into my establishment looking to spend money, I’m going to do what I can to separate that person from his money. Because I like money.”

            Dave – you win the internet tonight.

          • GregW

            The interesting thing about this last paragraph is that more often than not that’s what has happened. Maybe the business ends up paying a token penalty. Maybe the change their form of organization. But most of what ‘punishment’ we’ve seen imposed on businesses refusing service to same-sex couples has actually been simply the free market at work. Real and potential customers hearing about the issue and deciding they’ll spend their money elsewhere. And yet the anti-gay crowd complain about that too.

        • to_tell_the_truth

          Re: “Nothing is purely a commercial, for-profit, secular, business transation. [sic]”

          Nonsense. Just yesterday, I went to Ace Hardware and bought a replacement fluorescent lightbulb. No one at the cash register even mentioned their religious beliefs, and I would have left the item on the counter and left the store if they had done so. I wanted hardware, not a sermon.

          Re: “Every business operates under a certain set of ethical (or unethical, as the case may sometimes be) assumptions.”

          They’re supposed to be ‘operating under’ the secular laws of the land they agreed to ‘operate under’ when they applied for their business license. No ‘God-talk’ involved.

          Re: “Further, customers often choose to shop (or not shop) at establishments based upon purely ethical considerations (how those establishments pay their employees, for example).”

          As is their perfect right to do. Your ‘point’?

          Re: “Don’t like how a bakery operates? Easy solution: go to a different baker.”

          Easier solution: Baker, do your secular job, equally for ALL customers and leave your religion-based prejudices in your hardened heart where they belong.

          George

        • John

          I’d argue that pretty much every transaction I make is a “commercial, for-profit, secular, business transaction.” Unless I”m buying from a non-profit, then only three of those apply.

          Ethics are part of business transactions. Religious beliefs are not. Don’t confuse religion and ethics. There have been, throughout history, a nearly infinite number of examples of poor ethical decisions being made in the name of religion. I can think of one that happened just yesterday in Australia, and an entire Crusade several hundred years ago (to flip that coin to its other side).

          • DJ Wambeke

            “Ethics are part of business transactions. Religious beliefs are not. Don’t confuse religion and ethics.”

            It’s not quite so neat and tidy, I’m afraid. Who gets to decide what is “ethical”? Some people allow their religion to inform their ethics; others rely solely on their philosophical intuitions. I think we both agree, though, that everyone is operating acccording to some ethical system of some sort, and allows this ethical system to inform their business transactions.

          • GregW

            You appear to have conflated ethics with morality.

          • DJ Wambeke

            Actually, it’s completely intentional. All ethics is is a system of morality. Insofar as the terms are sometimes used to denote “public” (ethics) vs “private” (morality) systems of conduct, even that distinction is weak. For starters, in order to care about behaving according to public ethics, one first has to make those rules part of their private system of conduct. For another, what a culture considers public vs private changes all the time. Sexual behavior used to be considered part of the public code of ethics; the whole reason we are having the contentious debates we are in society today is because a lot of people (but not all) have come to view it as 100% private moral behavior. Maybe in 100 years the pendulum will swing back the other way…

          • GregW

            Ethics and morality are orthogonal concepts.

          • What do birds have to do with this?

            😉

          • John

            It is exactly that neat and tidy. My understanding of church and state says that the ethical guidelines you need to follow are established by the government. Which, while heavily influenced by 18th century puritan values, is NOT governed by religion.

            Religion informs ethics, for sure, but businesses are not operating under the rules of the church, they are operating under the rules of the government. So, when there’s a question of what ethical guidelines one is supposed to follow, the answer is that one must follow the law of the land, and not the guidance of the church. (Give to Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s).

          • DJ Wambeke

            “So, when there’s a question of what ethical guidelines one is supposed to follow, the answer is that one must follow the law of the land”
            I agree in a distinction between church/state. But who’s to say that the “law of the land” always gets ethics right? Segregation was the law of the land in the south, once, until MLK and others, using largely religious arguments, persuaded enough of the populace of the injustice to get the laws changed. There is always a law that is higher than the law of the land, and whether people use religious or philosophical arguments in developing their personal ethical systems, that Ultimate law is what they are aiming for.

          • John

            I’m not talking about what is right or wrong, I’m talking about what the guideline is for transactions right now, today. Until the law is changed, you are allowed (or required, depending on your perspective) to operate under the laws on the books now, not some hypothetical of what it should be.

            Changing the law of the land is what this whole discussion is about – should business have the right to follow their beliefs and not serve gays. My belief is that doing so violates the business laws of today (at least in MN), and encoding that into the legal system (which I believe will be struck down by the courts).

          • DJ Wambeke

            “My belief is that doing so violates the business laws of today (at least in MN)”
            You may be right on that – I’m no legal expert. 🙂

            From my perspective, the most important question a society asks is never “what does the law currently say?” but rather “what ought the law say?”

  • Jack

    I am convinced nobody follows the law anymore or gives a hoot about Human Rights or the idea of being a decent human being to one another.
    They don’t call Michigan the Armpit of the Universe for no reason, and for those who need to use religion as an excuse for Homophobia, let all of them live in Detroit and send the natives back to Detroit where they belong while we’re at it.
    There are plenty of unfilthy cake bakers in this town and god only knows what the homophobe cake bakers would put in the batter if you hired them anyway.
    For god’s sake be kind to one another.

    • John

      If it makes you feel better, I definitely give a hoot about human rights, and the idea of being decent to each other. So, there’s one. (there seem to be a few others in this thread too). I mostly try to follow the laws as well (though there are so damn many of them that I’m probably breaking three or four right now).

      • Jack

        Encounters are so very few and far between. Those of us who recognize each other practically hang on to the empathy mutually shared until the other has to leave.
        What is with these people? Does it take a law for you to show some respect and understanding? How about tolerance if yo.u haven’t an ounce of understanding within (god save you) This should be an automatic, I pity the ones who were born without.
        Now back to cutting onions.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    If a business is open to the public, it is open to ALL of the public.
    Prejudice is bad enough, but when it’s religion-based prejudice, it’s all the more abhorrent.

    Why do some ‘christians’ forget/ignore the central tenet of their faith? Namely, do to others as you would be done unto’.

    George

    • John

      I’ve been wondering a bit about some of that. There are lots of private clubs (i.e. businesses) that cater to (or perhaps only allow) individuals of specific traits to join/pay for services. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, golf courses, rich guy clubs, etc.

      How do they get exemptions? Or are they privately owned, and not public businesses? Maybe they don’t, and the rest of us just have the good sense not to join them.

      • to_tell_the_truth

        If this were ABOUT “private clubs”, your point would be relevant and would merit a detailed reply.

        George

        • John

          Oh, it’s definitely off topic (though probably not very far off topic). It’s just one of those things that popped into my head while thinking about this yesterday.

      • BJ

        Even those have had exemptions removed over the years.

  • Cory Youngblood

    I would just go to a different Baker. Who wants someone to make me a cake they probably spit in? I think the cake and photo thing is ridiculous. None of us are fighting for the right to cakes and photos. When I get married, i’ll need a sign language interpreter who speaks French and English and ASL. I may not find one in Louisiana. So I’ll get one from New York. I say let’s keep our eyes on the prize and fight for marriage not baked goods.

    • Dave

      Completely disagree.

      (1) you won’t be in business much longer if you intentionally contaminate your food

      (2) our country has ceded far too much ground to religious zealots

      (3) people need to understand that it is not right for businesses to discriminate, and that you will pay a hefty price if you choose to do so.

    • percykins

      Just to note, they do go to a different baker. That’s irrelevant to reporting them to their state’s Commission on Human Rights or whatever organization the state has which deals with discrimination complaints.

    • to_tell_the_truth

      Re: “None of us are fighting for the right to cakes and photos.”
      What we are fighting for is the Constitutionally promised Equal Protections of the Law. Period.
      Cakes and photos (and flowers and limo services and tuxedo rentals (etc., etc., etc.) are secular services made available – for profit – to the public.
      I would not be willing to accept discrimination in ANY publicly available ‘accommodation’, and pity those who would.
      And for those who would, I would ask them (HAVE asked them) for the complete list of secular goods and services that prejudiced vendors should be able to refuse SOME members of the public, and for some reason, I’ve never got ‘the list’.
      P.S. I speak English, French, German and, for 18 years, was a sign language interpreter for my church. Good luck in your search.
      George

      • davehoug

        To throw gas on the fire. IF the KKK hired you to do sign language at a rally of really nasty hateful stuff……would you as a commercial sign language interpreter be REQUIRED to work for the KKK???

        That is if you offer services to one member of the public you MUST offer to all willing to pay your price??? Think of the taxi cab drivers who did not want dogs or alcohol inside the cab, cashiers who did not want to touch plastic wrapped bacon…….it gets messy fast. fyi I lean to requiring all to work for all.

        • to_tell_the_truth

          But I’m NOT a “commercial sign language interpreter”, Dave. I volunteered to do it for my church.

          I do NOT offer my services to the public.

          But, I have had jobs serving the public and here’s a story from one of them:

          Years ago, I was a tourism information officer for a large city which hosted a huge religious convention. Some “Christian” conventioneers came to me for information wearing their “God hates fags” t-shirts and their “Homosexuals should surely be put to death. – Leviticus” t-shirts – quite offensive to me and utterly contrary to what I believe. And, what did I do? I served them – accurately, competently, promptly, courteously and (more important) EQUALLY with ALL of my other customers. MY beliefs did not change, but I did NOT discriminate against them, despite our differing beliefs.

          If I can do it, so can they.

          Now, YOU think of the taxi cab drivers who did not want dogs or alcohol inside the cab, cashiers who did not want to touch plastic wrapped bacon and tell me they should be allowed to do that.

          Yes, all you’ve done is “throw gas on the fire”.

          George

          • davehoug

            George, kudos to you for doing a difficult job well. I should have framed the question larger than just you.
            My point is beyond what is wise for a company policy, but what is legally allowed. I think both allowing or forbidding religious objections to those serving the public (for legally protected classes) gets messy fast. It will have consequences way beyond bakers and photographers serving gay weddings.

            Some may be required to do personally disgusting things in serving the public….such as sign language interpreter for KKK and left / right / Christian / Satanists rally.
            Some may be denied birth control pills from a pharmacist or taxi rides. It all depends on how the courts decide where religious faith ends and commerce begins. I can only gurantee somebody will be upset no matter how the courts rule.

          • to_tell_the_truth

            Religious beliefs should NOT be entering INTO public, for-profit business transactions. Period.

            When I go to the hardware store, I go to buy a lightbulb, not get a ‘sermon’.

            When I go to buy flowers, I expect to be able to buy those flowers if I have the asking price and am not a threat to public health or safety. I do NOT expect a vendor’s beliefs to even enter into the transaction. What a merchant believes is moot to me … AND to the secular law.

            As I illustrated above, if I can do it, so can they.

            Because if they can’t, their imposing THEIR beliefs on their customers – as a condition of doing secular, for-profit business in the public square – and thus infringing on any beliefs the CUSTOMERS may have.

            I cannot help it if religionists get “upset”. They cannot break the public accommodations laws that are there to ensure a civilized society.

            George

  • Matt K

    I’ve always wondered what the legality is of those little stickers in shop windows that say, “we reserve the right to refuse service”?

    It does raise some questions about who is required to work with who. Does a vegetarian marketing guru have the right to refuse to do a campaign with McDonalds? Does a pacifist web designer have the right to refuse to to build a site for Halliburton? These questions have always existed in my mind, its just now that the new legality of gay marriage has pushed them into public debate.

    • Dave

      There is a difference between the cake issue and the hypotheticals you raise. In the cake issue, a bakery was turning away people (i.e., not corporations).

      Your hypotheticals assume that corporations are people, my friend. And if corporations are people, then sure, a pacifist web designer would have to do business with Halliburton.

      Or at least that is how I see the Roberts court interpreting it.

      • Matt K

        Indeed, corporations are not people. No argument from me there.
        Does the scenario change if we’re talking about the vegetarian sign maker who refuses to make a sign for the butcher? The pacifist accountant who wont do taxes for a gun collector?
        I still don’t have a firm grasp on who is and is not allowed to “refuse service”.

        • John

          I’m not 100% sure this sticker is valid. I think they can not refuse service for those reasons.

          In a similar vein, we went into a small, locally owned, restaurant a few years ago, and the owner had a sign on the wall that said (I’m paraphrasing) – no breastfeeding in here, it’s offensive. At the time (and I assume this is still the case), it was legal to breastfeed in public (or in a business). So, the sign technically was not enforceable.

          Professionally, my wife is a breastfeeding advocate, so, we left and ate somewhere else. I probably would have stayed, because I was hungry and didn’t want to deal with finding another place (though I wouldn’t have gone back – my stomach holds greater sway than my politics, at least in the short term).

          That business has since gone under, though probably not because of the sign. I can’t help but wonder if the owner’s attitude toward which customers were the “right” kind of people (I’m assuming his/her issues were deeper than breastfeeding) helped grease the wheels of going out of business.

        • Brenda Scheiderer

          If corporations are not people, what are they? Rocks? Trees? Animals? Aliens? I always thought corporations were owned and operated by people.

    • percykins

      Shop owners can refuse service to you for reasons *other* than discrimination against protected classes. And no, those people are not required to work with the companies you mention because they’re not refusing to do so on the basis of a protected class.

      • Matt K

        Yes, I think that’s what I was overlooking. Protected class being, “race, gender, creed, religion, sexual orientation”. You can’t discriminate on those things, but you can for being an a-hole.
        So if a gay sign maker refuses to make a sign for Fred Phelps, its legal because Phelps is an asshole, not because Phelps is a Fundamentalist nutjob.

        • percykins

          Protected classes for federal law are race, color, sex, religion, national origin, and disability. Some states add creed, military status, sexual orientation or gender identity to that list with supplemental laws.

          But yes, in general, discriminating against a particular person just because you don’t like them, or because you don’t agree with their politics, is OK. Having a blanket policy that applies to anyone who is a member of a protected class won’t pass muster.

    • to_tell_the_truth

      Those stickers have been ruled Un-Constitutional.

      The ONLY instances where service can be refused is on a public health or safety basis (whence cometh the ‘No shoes, no shirt – no service’ rules) – neither of which applies here.

      NO merchant can refuse to serve peaceful, clothed African-Americans, for example.

      Thanks for asking.

      George

    • BJ

      As someone who worked in politics for all parties we often wondered what would happen if we had the Klan or other group like that come to use for services. I have had friends in the industry have to make that call. The usual response is something like, I don’t think I can do ‘x’ because I don’t believe in your cause so I am not the right person to help you achieve your goals. A republican strategist would not work for a democratic candidate, except I see it all the time when the republican candidate is far left or right of the party and the democratic candidate is actually closer the the republican strategists republican views on a majority of issues. see ‘Blue Dog Democrat’

  • $135917022

    Here is the problem with the story. “He called 13 prominent pro-homosexual bakers and asked them if they’d bake him a cake bearing the words “Gay marriage is wrong.” If he would of going to the gay bakers and asked him to make a straight wedding cake and they refused it would’ve been the same thing as the Christian baker refusing to make a wedding cake for same sex couple. But instead he asked them to put something on the cake that is a slap in the face. Who would do that? This is not the same, and it’s very obvious. Try again.

  • Sparky

    I am Conscience-bound to shun those “Christians” who would preach against the LGBTCommunity; for these are doing Evil.

    Accordingly, and in respect of The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision of June 30, 2014, I will no longer provide services of a professional, business, or personal nature to anyone who makes public display of Christian tokens, including but not limited to cross and fish), or who is known by me to be a member of the Christian Community, unless said individual publicly and explicitly rejects all Faith-based animosity towards LGBTs.

    Further, I will patronize no Business that makes such public displays unless said Business displays “The Rainbow Flag” along with it.

  • TED ADAMS

    This is an example of someone refusing to participate in an activity, not against the person(s) themselves. There has always been an understanding till a few years ago that a business can refuse to serve for an activity regardless of who the person is. This was understood even when the nondiscrimination laws were put into place. That meant that a Christian business did not have to service another religion’s activities if they were not in agreement with what the business was doing. It also was that barbers for instance could decline to do African American hair because they were not trained or did not feel comfortable doing the hair. The same for beauty salons. This did not mean that the barbers discriminated, it just meant the this activity was not something the barber or beauty salon felt good about doing. In the same way, because a couple is turned down for not doing a cake or flowers or any other service does not mean that they are discriminating against the persons of same sex orientation, it just means that they do not feel comfortable doing an activity they feel is in error. I personally see this as GLBT tyranny in trying to get everyone the same thought. Sorry, this will not work and it will become where each individual who declines to do this service will find a way around it and there won’t be a satisfactory ending. Be careful as to what you wish for, for you many regret what comes.