We have previously discussed (here and here) the growing conflicts over businesses that decline to accommodate same-sex weddings and events in a clash between anti-discrimination and free speech (and free exercise) values. Despite my support for gay rights and same-sex marriage, I have previously written that anti-discrimination laws are threatening the free exercise of religion. Some of these cases involve bakeries that insist that making wedding cakes for same-sex couples violates their religious principles. Now we have a twist on this trending litigation. The Azucar Bakey has been found to have broken discrimination laws by refusing to make an anti-same-sex cake. The bakery was asked to make a Bible-shaped cake with an anti-gay slur and owner Marjorie Silva refused. The customer brought a complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and won.
The customer wanted the bakery to draw two males holding hands with “a big ‘X’ on them.”
Silva identifies herself as a practicing Christian and makes Christian cakes, but balked at making an anti-gay cake at her Lakewood bakery in December 2013. Previously in Colorado, Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips broke discrimination laws when he refused to make a cake for the same-sex wedding of Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig in July of 2012. That decision was upheld by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Now we have the flip side. Silva offered to leave the bible page blank to allow the customer (who she describes as disruptive) to write whatever he wanted but she declined to write it herself. Ironically, she could have simply refused to serve him on the basis for any disruption in the store. She was later sent a notice by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) that a religious discrimination complaint has been filed against Azucar Bakery. She has since received a notice from DORA requesting a final letter describing her account of events.
The question raised by these cases is whether anti-discrimination laws are driving too deeply into free speech rights. Bakers and photographers view themselves as engaged in a form of speech generally. The loss of a bright-line defining free speech has meant that we are finding ourselves increasingly on a slippery slope of speech regulation. On the other hand, we fought hard to guarantee accommodation for all races in places of public accommodation. Stores are not allowed to ban black customers under the same rationale. The question is whether there is a difference between refusing to serve customers on the basis for sexual orientation generally as opposed to taking an active or direct role in a same-sex wedding.
Where do you think we should draw the line?