Tomorrow the Supreme Court hears the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, whose owner, Jack Philips, declined on religious grounds to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The couple who had wanted to commission the cake reported Philips to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which determined he violated non-discrimination law; his lawyers claim that punishing him violates his freedom of speech. While Phillips’s case is legally unconvincing, asserts George F. Will, his accusers’ behavior is abhorrent:
A cake can be a medium for creativity; hence, in some not-too-expansive sense, it can be food for thought. However, it certainly, and primarily, is food. And the creator’s involvement with it ends when he sends it away to those who consume it. Phillips ought to lose this case. But Charlie Craig and David Mullins, [the couple] who sought his punishment, have behaved abominably.
To make his vocation compatible with his convictions and Colorado law, Phillips has stopped making wedding cakes, which was his principal pleasure and 40 percent of his business. He now has only four employees, down from ten. Craig and Mullins, who have caused him serious financial loss and emotional distress, might be feeling virtuous for having done so. But siccing the government on him was nasty.
Denver has many bakers who, not having Phillips’s scruples, would have unhesitatingly supplied the cake they desired. So, it was not necessary for Craig’s and Mullins’s satisfaction as consumers to submit Phillips to government coercion. Evidently, however, it was necessary for their satisfaction as asserters of their rights as a same-sex couple.
Phillips’s obedience to his religious convictions neither expressed animus toward them nor injured them nor seriously inconvenienced them. Their side’s sweeping victory in the struggle over gay rights has been decisive, and now less bullying and more magnanimity from the victors would be seemly.