On December 5 the U.S. Supreme Court began taking oral arguments for the appeal case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a court case that will surely become one of the most consequential decisions to be adjudicated in recent memory.
The legal dispute between these two parties began in July 2012, when couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins decided to get legally married in Massachusetts, followed by festivities with friends and family in Colorado. The reason Craig and Mullins married in Massachusetts was that, at the time, Colorado did not recognize same-sex marriages. It was not until October 2014 that same-sex marriage was legally recognized by the state of Colorado.
To commemorate their newly established union, Craig and Mullins walked into Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, and ordered a custom wedding cake. The owner of this cake shop was Jack Phillips, a devout Christian baker who declined to make the couple a custom wedding cake due to his religious belief. For Phillips, the institution of same-sex marriage was wholly incongruent with his faith, and by fashioning such a cake, he would be affirming the practice, thus blemishing his spiritual connection with God.
It is important to note that the key word here is “custom.” Phillips was more than able and willing to sell the couple other baked goods in the store, just not a custom cake that memorialized them in matrimony. While other bakeries in the neighboring area were able to produce such a cake, the couple, instead, decided to file a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission under the state’s public accommodations law that prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
Craig and Mullins won the case, and Phillips was forced to provide cakes for same-sex marriages, change company policies, provide staff training regarding public accommodation laws and provide quarterly reports. Fast forward to 2017, Phillips petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court, and now the quarrel will be decided by the highest court in the land.
The plaintiffs’ defense is that Phillips’ freedom of speech and religion have been violated because Colorado’s public accommodations law compels Phillips to create an expression that goes against his sincerely held religious belief about marriage.
That is a fine defense, but I am actually willing to yield a more fundamental argument as to why everyone, including Phillips and every Tucsonan alike, is fully entitled to refuse proffering services to anyone they so choose:
Every human being, by virtue of their existence, is by default, the supreme master of their own time, labor and craft. No one has the right to coerce you, not even the state, into providing a particular service you do not want to perform, even if the underlining reason involves vile convictions, or no convictions at all. This is not a novel idea, as this notion is what helps us define what it means to posses individual liberty, and exercise liberal ideals.
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot for just a moment. Imagine that it is now Craig and Mullins who are the cake shop owners. What if a Trump supporter walked in and asked the couple to make a cake designed to look like Trump’s Wall, decorated with a Confederate Flag and topped with a Make America Great Again crimson hat? Should the same-sex couple make the cake? I am under the opinion that they have every right to refuse that request, not because of their political views, but because Craig and Mullins also posses individual preeminence over their own craft.