In June 2013, the Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes By Melissa refused to make a gay wedding cake for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer, thus violating the state’s non-discrimination law requiring businesses to serve all customers equally regardless of sexual orientation. The same-sex couple successfully sued the bakery for $135,000. And though the bakery paid that amount, they also appealed the ruling, claiming that the state’s non-discrimination law infringes on their constitutionally protected rights to religious freedom and free speech. However, yesterday the three-judge panel on the state appeals court ruled against the bakery, and now the bakers are deciding whether or not to appeal again.
A gay wedding cake has come to signify so much for American LGBTQ rights
The case has garnered national attention because of its similarity to another case currently in front of the U.S. Supreme Court involving the Masterpiece Cakeshop of Colorado. In that case, the bakery refused to create a cake for a same-sex couple’s 2012 wedding reception.
Both cases are nearly identical in that the same-sex couples involved say that they didn’t request any specific design, decoration or message for the cake before the bakers refused to sell them. The bakers refused only after hearing that the cakes would be used in same-sex marriage receptions.
However, the Colorado baker refutes this version of events, claiming that the gay couple brought in a folder filled with possible designs, including rainbow ones. He says that he refused to sell the cake, not because the couple was gay but because supplying a rainbow cake to a gay wedding would’ve forced him, in essence, to create an artwork supporting something his religion opposes.
In the oral arguments made before the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2017, the Justices asked whether the baker would sell a rainbow cake to a straight couple. The baker’s lawyer said that if the hypothetical straight couple wanted the rainbow cake to show support for same-sex marriage, he wouldn’t supply it.
A gay wedding cake is different from a pro-Nazi cake, by the way
In the U.S. Department of Justice’s amicus brief supporting the Colorado baker, it says that non-discrimination laws requiring a baker to make cakes for gay weddings could also potentially force freelance designers to create fliers for a neo-Nazi group or the rabidly anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.
But, the key difference here is that the government would never force a flier maker to create a neo-Nazi flier because the government has a compelling interest in helping eradicate racism, a compelling interest that should extend to homophobia. Whether the court agrees will remain a mystery until next year.
Featured image by SolStock via iStock