Soon after the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision two years ago, the battleground shriveled down to the sideshow of bakers and florists trying to duck gay weddings. The LGBT community has nearly unanimously rejected religious-liberty and free-expression arguments as smokescreens for noxious discrimination. But now that the Court is set to settle the matter next year, let’s take a step back and ask whether this battle is worth our energy – and whether we’re even on the right side.
Here are six solid arguments why LGBT Americans should stop objecting to the right of wedding servicers to sidestep our ceremonies:
- We won.
Nobody likes a sore winner. The LGBT community’s tireless efforts to persuade courts, legislatures, and the public have succeeded in convincing the country to take a radical step that was unthinkable for most gay Americans when we first came out. If all that’s left is who bakes our cakes, we can afford to back off.
- There’s no harm.
America is not suffering from an epidemic of bakers refusing to take our money, which isn’t surprising given the widespread sympathy for gay marriage (62 percent and counting). After the gay couple whose case is before the court was rebuffed, another bakery donated a free cake festooned with rainbows. Actual cases of lesbian brides who scoured the landscape for miles and miles and could not find anyone to sell them flowers would be journalistic catnip. We don’t hear about them because they don’t exist. The issue is purely symbolic.
- We’re not even being discriminated against.
In the present case (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission), the baker has specified “he is happy to create other items for gay and lesbian clients” – which is virtually the unanimous stance of the vendors nationwide so reviled by the LGBT community. Their discrimination is against ceremonies – not people. Think about it this way: if I were going to have a gay wedding (calm down, Mom, this is a hypothetical) and my very heterosexual brother tried to purchase us a cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop, they would politely decline. But if I went in to buy a cake for my brother’s very straight wedding they’d immediately start mixing the batter.
- There’s a limit to the African-American analogy.
The frequent analogy to discrimination against blacks is distasteful at best. Jim Crow was an entire societal apparatus constructed to isolate, humiliate, and oppress African-Americans. The scattered wedding vendors who wish to limit service to opposite-sex unions represent nothing of the sort. Further, anyone who presumes all their traditionally religious neighbors are bigoted haters whose expression needs strict regulation should look in the mirror and ask who the true bigoted hater is.
- Our stance could haunt us someday.
Don’t believe the liberal dreamers who talk of long historical arcs bending toward justice. History doesn’t always work that way, as those of us who voted for Hillary well know. I’m not referring to facile analogies about gay bakers forced to bake homophobic cakes. I’m talking about broader controversies like what pro-gay teachers are and aren’t allowed to tell their students about homosexuality. It isn’t long ago that such questions haunted the gay community. If the Constitution means today’s government can force an individual to express an idea she abhors – or lose her livelihood – a future, less gay-friendly government could make us do so as well.
- It’s bad politics.
Observers of the election of Donald Trump are increasingly blaming cultural rather than economic factors. In particular, Americans rebelled against the sense that disdainful elites were trying to silence them. This is just not a good time for LGBT Americans to gain a reputation for trying to shut down anyone’s expression. Besides, our community faces bigger challenges. Try telling the gays of Chechnya you spent much of 2018 fighting oppressive florists.
LGBT Americans can afford to be kind to folks who are, on some level, the victims of our recent cultural and political successes – which (despite ongoing challenges) have been truly remarkable. The respect we could gain from such magnanimity could really be (sorry) the icing on the cake.