Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The battle of the buttercream

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 5:00 PM

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A gay couple was recently denied a wedding cake by a local bakery that claimed making a cake to celebrate a gay marriage violated its owners' religious beliefs. A citywide statute is already in place prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Some local legal experts say the statute may not apply, while others say it depends on the facts of the case. Regardless of the legality of the situation, it's a shitty thing to do.

The couple moved on to another bakery willing to fulfill their request, but the initial rejection must have been humiliating. Their ceremony would be largely symbolic, provided that our great state denies them the ability to define their union as marriage. Denying them baked goods, which requires zero legal recognition, is icing on the hateful cake.

By no means do I count myself a Biblical scholar, but it's my understanding that when Jesus performed his miracle at a wedding of turning water into wine he didn't confirm the sexual orientation of each guest and he didn't qualify how the wine should be used. Rather he made the wine to aid in the celebration of the day. He also served he multitudes, among which were sinners of all styles, with loaves of bread and fish. He didn't condemn the multitudes for needing or wanting the food. He simply provided (as simply as one can perform miracles, I suppose). That begs the question WWJD: Who Would Jesus Deny?

What would prevent me from going to a bakery and ordering a wedding cake for my "sister and her totally male, totally straight fiancé," then bringing the cake to my own gay wedding? Would this bakery deny an interracial couple, an atheist couple, a couple who had engaged in premarital sex? And more importantly, how would they know such things about their clientele? If they knew I planned to buy one of their cakes and wolf it down in a buttercream binge, would they deny me based on the sins of gluttony? And again, how would they know?

"Sir, before you walk out with that cake, please complete this questionnaire so we may determine the intended use and purpose of said cake." What I do with the cake is not the baker's business. If I want to take it home and slather it on my naked torso while invoking the blessings of Paula Deen, I should be able to. (But I won't. Promise.)

Religious liberty provides one the freedom to practice faith openly, but it also protects one from being forced to follow the beliefs of others. It entitles you to deny me a sermon in your church, not service in a public business. Perhaps if your deeply held religious beliefs prohibit you from serving a subsection of your fellow citizens you should reconsider whether or not to go into business at all. Or at least take some of the guesswork out of it. State your intention to discriminate right in your company name: Body of Christ Bakery, You're Going To Hell And I'm Not Tire and Lube, No Infidels Tax Prep or White Power Salon and Spa. Then you wouldn't have to deny anyone service. Your non-preferred clientele would know they were not welcome in the first place.

Allowing discrimination while hiding behind religious texts sets a dangerous precedent. Where does it stop? Could an anti-gay doctor refuse to treat a gay patient in a public hospital? Could a Muslim firefighter refuse to fight a fire at a synagogue? Could a Catholic teacher refuse to teach a Protestant student in a public school? Of course they could. But should they?

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Doug Whitinger

Doug Whitinger is a native Hoosier and an advocate for LGBT rights.

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