Monday, June 04, 2018

Gay cakes and discrimination

I just heard the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the guy who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. I haven't read the ruling, so I don't know what the reasons were, but here are my thoughts.

I think there's a difference between being unwilling to serve a certain type of person and being unwilling to perform a certain type of service.

If the cake maker were willing to make a chocolate cake for a straight person but unwilling to make the same type of cake for a gay person, then he's discriminating against gay people.

But if the same cake maker were willing to make a chocolate cake for both gay and straight people, but unwilling to make a vanilla cake for either gay or straight people, then he's not discriminating against gay people. He's only being selective about the kind of cake he's willing to make.

So if the cake maker is willing to make straight cakes, whether straight people or gay people order them, but he's unwilling to make gay cakes, whether straight people or gay people order them, then he's discriminating against types of cake, not types of people.[1]

If it turns out that only gay people would ever want to order a gay cake, it doesn't for that reason become discrimination against gay people.

I'm a knife maker. I make both kitchen knives and hunting knives. Suppose I decided I only wanted to make hunting knives and no kitchen knives. Would I be discriminating against cooks? Of course not! A cook can buy a hunting knife from me any time he wants. The fact that he doesn't want a hunting knife and only wants a kitchen knife doesn't mean I'm discriminating against him. It just means I'm not providing a service that he wants, and he should find somebody else who does.


1. By "gay cake" and "straight cake," I mean a cake that is decorated in such a way as to indicate or celebrate a gay or straight union. For example, a straight wedding cake might have a figurine at the top of a bride and groom whereas a gay wedding cake might have a figurine at the top of two brides or two grooms.


At 7/13/2018 3:52 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make an interesting argument and your logical reasoning follows reasonably. Even so, I believe that the fundamental part of your argument is in your footnote -- that if the cake is actually designed in such a way that it is significantly different from the standard accepted design, then there is a reasonable basis for the cake maker to refuse to make that particular kind of cake. If it truly was the case that this was representative of what issues lie at the heart of the situation, your case would be air-tight. But, I believe that since a cake used for a straight wedding could just as easily be used for a gay wedding (without any physical difference), the main difference is not in the physical design of the cake, but rather what the cake will be used for.

This puts the issue in plain sight: is a shop-keeper allowed to be selective about who they sell to, based on what the customer will use their product for? There are certain cases where this would seem agreeable: if you refuse to sell a knife to someone who intends to use it to commit a crime (and makes their intentions clear to you), I would say that you were upholding the law. But what if the activity is legal, but it is believed to be morally wrong by the shop-keeper? For instance, let's say that there is a shop-keeper that sells electric guitar strings who believes strongly that playing rock music is morally corrupt. Is it alright for the shop-keeper to refuse to sell a set of strings to a customer who proclaims their intention of playing rock music?

If so, then shop-keepers are allowed to arbitrarily discriminate against certain customers on the basis of their beliefs. By this logic, a cake maker should have the right to refuse service to an interracial couple because the cake maker is strongly against interracial marriage. Or Jewish, or Asian, or Nerd. This quickly defeats the purpose of discrimination law.


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