It’s the wedding-cake version of “the sky is falling.” If the Supreme Court allows cake bakers to refuse gay weddings, LGBT activists say, then banquet halls and tailors will too. Soon, every Christian in America will be justifying discrimination in the name of “free expression.”
Indeed, the slippery-slope argument hovers over the Supreme Court as it prepares to hear oral arguments today in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. But, for people who love freedom, the other side of the slippery slope is the one that is terrifying.
The Court is unlikely to issue a pro-baker ruling that gives non-expressive vendors free rein to discriminate. But what if the bakers lose? If fighting discrimination is more important than wedding-cake expression, what other wedding expression is also at risk?
Because if baker Jack Phillips loses his case, advocates of same-sex marriage will push further and further in restricting dissent about gay marriage. Here are three examples of wedding services that involve more speech than cake decoration which may be in jeopardy:
Officiants. Gay-marriage advocates have repeatedly tried to assuage opponents by assuring them the First Amendment (and deceptively named marriage laws) will protect clergy from having to marry same-sex couples. But what about secular officiants? Notaries public are authorized to perform weddings in Florida, South Carolina, and Maine. Some of them offer full ceremonial services similar to what a minister or judge oversees. If an anti-baker decision requires Evangelical Christian notaries to treat same-sex weddings equally, they will be forced to literally utter words (“I now pronounce you husband and husband”) they abhor.
Bands. If bakers can’t discriminate, then Christian wedding bands — and bands made up of Christians — probably can’t either. Band members would be required to play the couple’s set list (including Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Tom Robinson’s “Glad to be Gay,” perhaps?). Further, bands at straight weddings routinely say things like “Ladies and gentlemen, the happy couple, Mr. and Mrs. John Smith!” A Supreme Court ruling that obligates a wedding singer to override his core beliefs in making an equivalent announcement should shock the conscience.
Notices. Many newspapers allow couples to purchase “wedding announcements” that are essentially advertisements notifying the public of the nuptials. Should the bakers lose, a newspaper could be forced to treat same-sex notices the same as opposite-sex ones. The freedom of the press is supposed to be sacrosanct, but newspapers are already barred from running advertisements that discriminate against protected classes. If the Supreme Court decides marriage equality is more important than free expression, can newspapers owned by conservative Christians lose the right to reflect only the publisher’s views on marriage within their pages?
The Supreme Court is going to have to decide precisely which expression, if any, deserves protection even if it involves discrimination. LGBT advocates clearly hope it protects no discriminatory expression (except perhaps that of clergy). If that happens, the slope eroding our liberties will be slippery indeed.
The irony is that a pro-baker decision would give an immediate boost to gay rights. It would de-fang the strongest argument against non-discrimination laws, since such statutes could no longer force wedding vendors to express ideas that violate their consciences. The federal government and the 28 states that offer no workplace protection from dismissals based on sexual orientation may warm to legal equality.
As a gay man, I understand why LGBT leaders want to punish voices that still dissent from the idea our marriages are equal. But is fighting Christian bakers really more important than making sure our resumes get equal attention and that we can’t be dismissed if our identity is discovered?
The gay rights movement will not have won until being gay is considered boring. Squelching other people’s ideas while some of us still face workplace unfairness is not a step in that direction.
David Benkof is a columnist for The Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or Facebook, or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.