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Gay cake issue has line back to the Civil Rights movement
January 13, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
The row over the gay couple seeking, and receiving, a court order against a Colorado baker who refused to bake them a wedding cake strikes a couple chords.
One: The religious chord. If we are of the bent that finds homosexual relationships to be against religious beliefs, then we can make the argument that the government shouldn’t impinge upon those beliefs by ordering the baker to make the cake.
Two: If we are thinking about people as people, then it’s a case of a business discriminating as surely as if it was saying it wouldn’t bake a black couple or an Asian couple or a couple in wheelchairs a cake. And, by the way, the nation’s civil rights laws do include provisions to prevent discrimination against one because of their sexual orientation.
Had this been about a church hall refusing to rent to the gay couple for their reception, the religious persecution alarm would have gone off in my head very loudly. No court should tell the church who can use its hall. That’s not what this was.
It wasn’t all that long ago that right here in Steubenville there were pioneering people who had to take a stand and go sit at the lunch counter in downtown restaurants to establish the right that blacks and whites could dine together without harm befalling anyone.
It wasn’t all that long ago that people with physical handicaps were walled off in their houses and treated separately, and certainly not socially equally, from the rest of us.
When I was managing the gym the last year or so on my mental health break, for which you also cannot discriminate, from writing about what I think, I don’t remember ever being allowed to ask about sexual orientation of a customer, or remotely caring to ask. Come one, come all, it’s your club. You paid your dues. Use the equipment like anyone else.
Should the wedding photographer be allowed to turn down business because the groom or bride has a hideous permanent scar on their forehead?
Where does the line get drawn?
I am among those who find the constant in-your-face bickering over gay rights distasteful, and who is sick of every TV show needing at least one gay character to pass muster. But I don’t think a sense of justice is necessarily shaped by pop culture — I can turn off the TV or change the channel. I can’t stop thinking about where this case fits in the national scheme of things. I think people are much more than their skin color or sexual orientation, gender or handicap or national origin or religion, to paraphrase the protected classes under the non-discrimination statues of the land.
Did this need a court order? Probably not, because there are other bakers and the couple reportedly did find another place to get their cake. The baker who refused gets penalized by not making a buck. That is about the only problem I have with this tale, and it gets back to the in-your-face nature of the movement. Businesses certainly may pass on money in the pocket.
But saying that it’s because of who is doing the asking isn’t quite right.
To me, it keeps drawing me back to the lunch counters. To Rosa Parks just wanting to get off her tired feet on the bus. To the guy in the wheelchair who can drive his van to the store and go shopping, where had this been the 1960s, he might have been institutionalized in a world without ramps and accommodations.
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