Say, hypothetically, you go to a bakery to order your wedding cake.
Imagine you are Christian. And the bakery specializes in wedding cakes. Particularly satanic wedding cakes, but they make them for atheist and Buddhist weddings too, on occasion. And you happen to love the way their devil’s food cake tastes, and you’d like them to make one for your Christian wedding. And then the satanic baker says, "I’m sorry, but it’s against my beliefs to make a wedding cake for Christian weddings. Good day! Hail Satan!"
You’d be upset, right? (Along with being confused with the whole "Hail Satan" thing.)
Now imagine you are gay. And a Christian baker says making you a wedding cake is against their beliefs. Well, you don’t have to imagine. Because it really happens. On occasion. And then the courts have to weigh in and shut that down.
But what about freedom of speech? Or freedom of religion? Or artistic freedom? What then?
John Corvino’s hilarious new video has answers to all your concerns about the rights of wedding cake bakers.
Along with being chair of the philosophy department at Wayne State University, John has a history of hilariously explaining, for example, why you can’t marry your kitchen appliances. In the below video, he explains why he can’t discriminate against his conservative students, why a Kosher bakery can refuse to make you a bacon cake, and why you can’t own a bakery where all the bakers are nude.
(Make sure to watch the whole video, there’s comedy after the credits.)
Good luck with all your baking. Please wear clothes when you do it.
Hi I’m John Corvino. There seem to be a lot of conflicts involving wedding providers–bakers, florists, caterers, and so on–who refuse to serve same-sex couples.
The first thing to realize is that there are not actually a lot of these: They just tend to get highlighted in the news. And that’s unfortunate, because it makes it seem like the worst problem facing gay people is the inability to buy cakes and flowers. That’s not what anti-discrimination laws are mainly about. They’re mainly about access to employment, and housing, and basic goods and services.
The idea behind public accommodations laws in particular is that when a business is open to the public, it must serve the entire public, without discriminating on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or other core features of identity.
That’s what makes these cases different from, say, a kosher bakery that won’t sell you a cake topped with bacon, or a vegan bakery that won’t sell you a real buttercream cake: these are not items that they provide to anyone. That’s quite different from a bakery that won’t sell a same-sex couple the very same items that they are willing to sell to a different-sex couple.
Okay. But don’t these laws limit the freedom of bakers? Well, yes. But that’s true of lots of laws. I mean, the baker can’t operate in the nude, even if they’re morally committed to being nudists. They have to carry insurance, even if they think that insurance is a form of gambling prohibited by God. If the bakery is of a certain size they have to offer employees maternity leave and let them to come back to work after they have their children, even if they think “a mother’s place is in the home.” And so forth.
“All right” you might say. But what about their artistic freedom of the bakers? I mean, wedding cakes involve a lot of creative expression! Well, yes. But that’s true of lots of jobs. My job as a philosophy professor involves a lot of creative expression, but I don’t get to say “You know, I don’t want to teach the conservative students, only the liberal students because the conservative students will use the skills I’m teaching to further their right-wing agenda.”
When we enter the public sphere, we are bound by rules for the benefit of all. And I do mean all, because in places where these laws exist, they offer as much protection to conservative religious customers as they do to LGBT customers–sometimes more. They mean that the gay atheist can’t refuse to serve the conservative Christian any more than the conservative Christian can refuse serve to the same-sex couple.
So the next time you hear about one of these wedding cases, remember: They’re not really about cakes and flowers–any more than racial discrimination was about drinking fountains. They’re about ensuring equal treatment when we enter the public sphere.