The latest is just more than wedding cakes and Justice Kennedy
By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
In my family, my dad, uncles, and cousins knew how to fix, build, and create things. They safely used hammers, screwdrivers, and other tools. This eludes me. Walking into a Home Depot remains a merciful rarity for me.
In June, I dug holes in the front yard to plant several varieties of lavender. In the third hole, I snapped the thin, underground orange cable for the internet. It was Friday afternoon. No internet for the weekend?! Maybe longer!
After settling down, though still fretting about the possible repair cost, I told myself that if this is the worse part of the week, I’m doing fine. I have a job, good health, live in a nice neighborhood, and am blessed with a small, trusted group of friends.
I thought about a less frenzied few days. No 24-hour news to make me angry. No wasted time watching yet another B-horror vampire movie from the 1970s posted on YouTube. No more reading opinions of pundits about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of a Colorado baker refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple based on religious views.
Suddenly, my world became slower with fewer intrusions from a cold, complicated world. During the absence of internet, I read more and focused on long-ignored writing projects. Work e-mails had to wait. Rather than being fed opinions from television talk show panelists, I had a quiet time to reflect and form my own. I had to think more and be less influenced by drama-infused analysis used to manipulate viewer emotions to boost ratings.
It was liberating. It forced me to break with some wasteful and perhaps spiritually and emotionally unhealthy routines.
Although the internet was restored on Saturday, I benefited from a needed peace. Based on this experience, I promised myself to use the internet in focused moderation while remaining committed to writing, gardening, reading books, and limiting the news.
The internet absence gave me pause to think about the recent Supreme Court wedding cake decision. I reminded myself to be thankful for something. It didn’t take long to find.
I learned Rescue Mission Alliance, a 131-year old Christian charity and ACR Health, both based in Syracuse, NY, teamed up to support LGBTQ homeless youth. A safe shelter is being created by the Christian group while ACR Health’s Q Center will provide supportive counseling services.
Next, I detached emotion from reason and directly wrestled with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. It’s good to go to the source and see or read something for yourself. Read the opinion. It’s amazing how urban myths get started. Two liberal justices and the moderately conservative-leaning justice, who wrote the majority opinion legalizing marriage equality, sided with the baker.
Why would three justices who supported marriage equality side with a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple?
The Court’s opinion is specific to this Colorado baker and how he was mistreated by a state commission charged with serving all citizens. The commission failed to review the discrimination complaint in an objective manner. A sincere, good-intentioned man had been publicly mocked, ridiculed and belittled, and his faith dismissed outright.
By the way, the baker said, as quoted in the court’s opinion, “I’ll make your birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy, the judge who wrote the earlier opinion for marriage equality, wrote for the majority. He observed:
“ … gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth … the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must protect them in the exercise of their civil rights. The exercise of their freedom on terms equal to others must be given great weight and respect by the courts. At the same time, the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”
He further wrote:
“The couple bringing the action, conceded, moreover, that if a baker refused to sell any goods or any cakes for gay weddings, that would be a different matter and the State would have a strong case under this Court’s precedents that this would be a denial of goods and services that went beyond any protected rights of a baker who offers goods and services to the general public and is subject to a neutrally applied and generally applicable public accommodations law.”
The opinion also expressed deep concern about the baker’s treatment.
The case has limited application. A business holding itself out to the public cannot deny food, housing, or medical service to a same-sex couple. Social conservatives didn’t get anything close to what they wanted. If anything, it may have laid the foundations that indiscriminate denial of services will not be tolerated.
Life’s little annoyances, like a snapped Internet line, can be the cosmos telling us we need to step back to think, reflect, and not react. It’s also a reminder to keep perspective about everything happening to us personally and collectively as a community.
*Paul is a personal chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”