Denying Gay Couples Art

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Cathy Miller of Tastries bakery in Bakersfield, CA can refuse to sell to anyone who displeases her, according to the California Superior Court, because it's "art," and that makes it free speech.

According to this Feb. 7 Washington Post article, Judge David R. Lampe opined that “Miller is a practicing Christian and considers herself a woman of deep faith.”

If Miller's faith is so strong, it should support her through this perceived tribulation. I refer her to Jesus' response to the Pharisees when they challenged him on the very subject of sacred vs. secular:

“Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21

Miller evidently claims to have faith in her God. But if that faith doesn't outweigh this commercial transaction in her own heart, it is paltry indeed. And she shouldn't look to the courts to strengthen it; she should look to her God.

And as for artistic expression, who defines that? The courts? If so, let them consider these cases:

  • If a homophobic bigot wants to buy my books (which I consider art and definitely free speech) just to burn them, I have no legal recourse; nor should I.
  • If a surgeon considers her work to be art, she might refuse to operate on someone for reasons that have nothing to do with her profession.
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Judge Lampe further asserts that if the gay couple had chosen a cake already completed, Miller would have been legally obligated to sell it to them; but because in this case Miller would have had to create a custom cake, it crossed into the area of art and free speech.

I'm going to turn Judge Lampe on his head for a second. We have two cakes: one Miller created based on her own input alone (that is, not custom); another Miller created with input from a customer. Wouldn't the former be a truer expression of Miller's art?

Having the court determine what is art is not radically different from trying to legislate morality. There are assumptions we can make about what most people want supported by law: protection from murder, from material or intellectual theft, from violence, from fraud, from unfair business practices.

But we must be very, very careful when we venture into areas such as religion and morality. Quoting the Post article, "She believes that same sex unions 'violate a Biblical command that marriage is only between a man and a woman.'" Fine; but when her belief bumps into another's legal and civil rights, which should preside? I'm going to say the latter.

I saw an interview in 2015 (if memory serves) about marriage equality in which a "man on the street" expressed his belief this way: "It's like you're telling me that if I think marriage is something special between a man and a woman, you're calling me a bigot!"

Abominable sentence structure aside, no one needs to call this man a bigot. He's just done it himself. Bigotry is the reserving of a right or privilege for a select group of individuals, to the exclusion of all others, based on the "belief" of that select group. We need go no further back in history than the Black Civil Rights movement in the U.S. to see what this looks like. And it demonstrates how well bigotry works: It doesn't.

Cathy Miller and Judge Lampe would codify bigotry. The Post article says this case is likely to be appealed, and I hope that happens. Meanwhile I appeal to Miller's God to soften her heart, strengthen her faith, and encourage her to go on about her business. Literally.

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