Imagine the disappointment. You want to get the biggest, gayest, most rainbow-decorated, glitter-infused cake the world has ever seen, and the homophobic Christian-run bakery just down the road refuses to make it. Apparently, Jesus’ love does have limits, and those limits stop short of cakes that celebrate gay marriage. Cue outrage, a court showdown… and lackluster cake-free gay marriage celebration. Battle lines have been drawn.
Britain has laws that protect homosexuals from discrimination, and their right to access both public and private services as one of many protected minorities is sacrosanct to Britain’s human rights law. In this sense, it is absolutely right that businesses cannot discriminate by refusing to serve a gay customer. But an important distinction needs to be made in the ‘gay cake’ argument, and that is that the customer they turned away was not turned away because of his sexuality, but because the message carried by his cake was one that the bakers found incompatible with their (moronic) religious beliefs. As the bakers have repeatedly stated, the customer’s sexuality had nothing to do with their decision to refuse his custom. A heterosexual who wanted a cake celebrating gay marriage would have also been turned away. Had their gay customer ordered a different, non-gay-marriage-related, kind of cake, he would have been accepted. This might just seem like a technicality, but it is a critical one. This is an issue of free speech, not of discrimination.
This crucial difference, therefore, separates the ‘gay cake’ debacle from other related court cases. The owners of a B+B who refused to allow a gay couple to stay, for example, were rightfully hung out to dry. Being gay is not a choice, and like being black or being a woman, for example, shouldn’t mean we are denied access to goods and services that others find openly available to them. Gender-specific attraction is an innate reality of our being, something that we cannot change, nor should we be expected to. A gay marriage is similar; a gay man should not have to get any other kind of marriage than a gay one and therefore should not be denied this right. But a gay man can get any kind of cake; to buy a specifically gay-themed one is a matter of choice available to both homosexuals and heterosexuals. Likewise is the decision of a business to bake one on request.
Bigoted Christians have thrown their support behind the bakery, a last bastion of human stupidity they seem determined to defend, while gay rights campaigners have been swift in their condemnation of the baker’s actions. It’s always disheartening to hear about people who think God’s unconditional love is pretty conditionally unconditional, but the broader implications of denying people the right to express their opinions must be taken into account. The situation, reversed, would be equally uncomfortable for all the same reasons; if I ran a bakery I would certainly feel compelled to refuse to bake a homophobic cake. Imagine if the law didn’t grant me that right? The implications could be massive if this is set as a legal precedent. Should a Jew be forced to decorate a cake of Hitler for example, or a disabled person painstakingly ice the word ‘cripple’ onto a Bake-Off Showstopper testament to human stupidity? Most ironically of all, this court ruling could compel gay bakers to have to bake cakes daubed with homophobic slurs; hardly a triumph for gay equality.
Just because we disagree with someone’s opinion, doesn’t mean they should be prevented from expressing it. Worse still, the homophobic bakers have now been turned into martyrs by the likes of the Daily Mail, held up as evidence of some crushing ‘majority discrimination’ that is afflicted upon Middle England by the evil gay agenda. Of course, publicly attaching your bigoted views to your bakery business is a dangerous move in the business world. As is the country we live in, customers have every right to vote with their feet and boycott the bigoted bakery, a move I would wholeheartedly support. After all, the pressure on businesses to appear accepting and tolerant is just as motivated by market pressure as it is by the law. Perhaps the business of homophobes will be enough to keep the bakery in business. But hopefully their more tolerant rival will take all their protesting custom and grow into a far more successful business off the back of their intolerance. We can hope for a world where a cake celebrating human love couldn’t become the focal cause of the intolerant and misguided, but in the meantime I hope we can continue to live in a country where our right to voice an opinion, and follow our conscience, remains protected as we pursue equality for all.