Note: This post is written by guest author Rev. M. Vernon Hunt. Enjoy!
Brian Brown, head honcho at the National Organization “for” Marriage and extremely manly man, cast down quite the heavy gauntlet yesterday in a lengthy screed published on the NOMBlog website. Midway through a piece entitled “Let Them Eat Cake, NOM Marriage News” he said:
“I challenge any same-sex marriage activist to take to their blog or to pen an op-ed doubling down on the opinion that what cake decorators and bakers do isn’t a form of artistry and doesn’t deserve protections as a form of expression!”
A little background for you, gentle readers, before I train my sights on the fish barrel. Recently in Colorado, Judge Robert N. Spencer ruled against Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, in a case centered on Spencer’s refusal to produce a cake for a same-sex wedding. Phillips asserted that to expect him to do so would violate his rights to freedom of expression and religious liberty.
To the surprise of almost no one outside of the most rabidly breathless members of the extreme right wing, the court didn’t buy this specious argument, ruling that for-profit businesses which offer their goods and services to the public must follow public accommodation laws. Naturally, this decision has put the bigots in a serious tizzy, and they have been blathering non-stop since it was issued about “sincerely held beliefs” and “free speech” and lots of noble-sounding concepts which have no application whatsoever to this particular situation.
According to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies:
“Colorado Law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation based on certain protected classes (characteristics). Examples of prohibited discriminatory practices include: terms of service; denial of full and equal service; intimidation; failure to accommodate; access; conditions; privileges; advertising; and retaliation. A place of public accommodation can be a: bar; restaurant; financial institution; school or educational institution; health club; theater; hospital; museum or zoo; hotel or motel; public club; retail store; medical clinic; public transportation; nursing home; recreational facility or park; and library.
Colorado law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. By legal definition, sexual orientation means heterosexuality, homosexuality (lesbian or gay), bisexuality, and transgender status. Transgender status means a gender identity or gender expression that differs from societal expectations based on gender assigned at birth.”
Pretty self-explanatory, that. Pretty thorough, too. The point, alas, seems to be entirely lost on the frothing-at-the-mouth contingent. Now, they are actively trying to conflate business with artistry in a desperate attempt to coat their buttercream bigotry with the sheen of piety and nobility, proffering a heaping slab of delicious victimhood to their ever-dwindling base. While the cognitive dissonance is glaringly obvious to the, well, cognizant folks among us, let’s go ahead and break this down, shall we?
Let’s start with the (flawed) assumption that all bakers are artists. If this were the case, their bakeries would be more akin to art galleries, their products displayed for the benefit of whoever might feel they’re worth paying for, based solely on their artistic merits. Sure, they might accept the occasional commission to make ends meet, but the bulk of their wares would be personal works of self-expression directed solely by their artistic vision, with little thought for the potential profits they may reap. They would live and die based on the viability of their message, vision, and skill. Baked goods would find their way into museum collections around the world, and the very best of these would fetch handsome prices at auction houses. We would soberly intone the names of our favorite bakers in the same breath as Van Gogh, Monet, or Bosch.
But we don’t, and we never will. This is because most bakeries are not art studios, but businesses, solely selling products and services in exchange for money. The average baker is not so much interested in making an artistic statement as he is in paying the bills. A bakery exists to turn a profit, much like every other business out there. A baker is not selling her creative vision; she is selling baked goods, and access to her skills in crafting them. It is no different than an accountant selling his skills at creating accurate spreadsheets, or a landscaper selling her ability to provide you with a lush, green lawn.
Obviously, this is not to say that no bakers are artists. Hardly a day goes by in which we don’t see some fine examples of the form. There are several television programs devoted to amazing bakers and their inspired creations. These bakers earned their accolades and success, though, not due to some nebulous “message” they have promoted, but due to the exemplary work they have done for their paying clients. They don’t need the publicity of a high-profile, wrongheaded legal battle in order to sell their products. Their products sell themselves by virtue of the top-notch work put into them. And, ultimately, as aesthetically pleasing as their cakes are, their end goal is still to turn a profit by selling them publicly.
Morality, relative as it is, simply doesn’t enter into the exchange. Going into business, any sort of business, is a financial venture and nothing more. Whether one is selling goods, services, or both, the prime motivation is to earn a profit, and by seeking to earn that profit from the public, one is beholden to the public accommodation laws in their area. There are exemptions, of course, for churches, ministries, and other religious organizations, by virtue of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, our nation’s governing document. A bakery, however, is usually not a church, ministry, or religious organization.
This is not saying it couldn’t be. If someone wanted to engage in a baked goods ministry or something along those lines, they could do so, and then be free to discriminate to their withered heart’s content. They could file the necessary paperwork, pay the necessary fees, and take all the other steps necessary to achieve religious non-profit status. Then they would be free to do with their goods and services as they wished, under the laws of the land. Except they don’t want to do that. That is not where their interests lie, otherwise that is what they would have done from the start. They didn’t go into ministry, they went into business.
These people have gone from belittling the LGBT+ community as dubious “victims” to seeking the mantle of victimhood for themselves, because they appear to believe that this is the approach that worked for us in the increasingly successful pursuit of our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights as American citizens. They cannot fathom that the simple combination of education and ethics is behind our long awaited attainment of full, sanctioned citizenship. They oppose education, because an educated mind is an open mind, one which is unlikely to agree with their stance. The eschew ethics, because ethics are based in logic, whereas their favored morality is more closely linked to emotion.
For some, it is mind-boggling just how hypocritical and unaware people like Brian Brown seem to be. I caution against their outright dismissal, though. Brian Brown may be foolish, but he’s no fool. He’s playing his base like a Stradivarius, counting on their willful ignorance and obeisance to unquestioned dogma. He knows what he’s doing, believe me. Every lie is carefully calculated to spur his underlings to maximum emotional outburst. If he weren’t good at what he does, none of us would know who he is.
What we are seeing now is an increasingly desperate segment of the population pushing back against the reality that their worldview grows more endangered with each passing day. They are angry that civilized society is finally passing them by. They feel powerless in the face of a progress they do not desire, a progress they never asked for and which caught them by surprise. Their innards are roiling at the knowledge that they aren’t as special or elite as they want to believe they are.
So, much like a toddler having a tantrum after being told she must share her toys, these people are lashing out in the most petty and ineffectual of ways. They aren’t fighting us for the sake of high-minded ideals like freedom, liberty, or God. They are railing against their own loss of social privilege, the idea that they are truly no better than anyone else, and thus do not deserve special rights which are doled out to only a select few. It’s almost sad, definitely pathetic.
So, is baking an art-form? Yes, in a manner of speaking, though certainly not the manner in which Brian Brown speaks of it, and that artistry is not the source of Jack Phillips’ indignation. As much as Brown, Phillips, and their shrinking legions of supporters protest, a simple baker is not engaged in a free-speech exercise, but a commercial enterprise. If you want to play the game of commerce, then you have to play by the rules, full stop, no matter who you are or what you claim to believe. Rules are peskily impartial like that, and that’s something we should all be grateful for.
Rev. M. Vernon Hunt is a Citizen of the Universe, currently based in the semi-tamed wilderness of Ashland, OH. He is an independent pandeist minister, a devoted Whovian, and a longtime LGBT+ activist. He is an award-winning writer, known for his witty and provocative voice, and he should probably blog more frequently, but that might cut into his Facebook time.