Seriously? Shouldn’t businesses have to serve all comers?We then learn about Douthat's own belief system -- and here's where I find myself puzzled:
I think they should be able to decline service for various reasons, religious scruples included. A liberal printer shouldn’t be forced to print tracts for a right-wing cause. A Jewish deli shouldn’t be required to cater events for the Nation of Islam.
But those are issues of belief, not identity. Denying service to gays is like denying service to blacks under Jim Crow.
None of the businesses facing sanctions are saying they wouldn’t serve gay people as a class; they just don’t want to work at nuptials. This isn’t a structural system of oppression, a society-wide conspiracy like Jim Crow; we’re talking about a handful of shops across the country. It seems possible, and reasonable, to live and let live.
I think discrimination is discrimination. What about you? Would you bake the cake?So Douthat is going to a celebration of his best high school friend's same-sex wedding, for which he'd happily bake a cake, but if his best friend had a wedding "in the style of a Catholic mass," he wouldn't want to show up, or even be the photographer?
Honestly, since so many of my friends aren’t religious or conservative, I’ve always taken for granted that being part of their lives meant accompanying them through life choices that belong to a different worldview than my own. (And I’m very grateful that they’ve accompanied and tolerated me.) My family has its share of divorces and second marriages; my friends’ romantic paths are varied; my closest friend from high school just exchanged vows with his longtime boyfriend. I’m going to a party celebrating them next month. If they asked me, I’d bring a cake.
So why can’t other believers do the same?
First, these issues are difficult and personal, and I don’t presume that my approach is always right. Second, details matter. My closest gay friends are fairly secular. But I would be uncomfortable attending same-sex vows in the style of a Catholic mass -- or being hired to photograph such a ceremony.
The obvious first point to be made about this is that Douthat is a terrible friend -- he's going to attend this party, but he wouldn't attend a wedding. I'd actually regard it as more understandable if he rejected his friend's marriage under either circumstance -- at least then he'd be acting on a principle, that homosexuality is always immoral and should never be endorsed or encouraged. I'd absolutely disagree with him, but his notion of what's sexually tolerable and intolerable would at least be consistent.
But this suggests that what upsets him is not so much homosexuality as the sullying of his precious church -- or, more precisely, the sullying of any church that practices the sort of moral scolding of which he approves. He'd reject a church wedding even if the denomination is one that's now embraced same-sex marriage, because Christian churches simply shouldn't do that -- they should punish or banish sexual transgressors. He wants churches to have the power to wag fingers and bully, and we wants them not to give up that power.
I suppose Douthat isn't very different from (as he notes) other selectively gay-averse business owners, or the family that owns Memories Pizza:
The O'Connor family told ABC 57 news that if a gay couple or a couple belonging to another religion came in to the restaurant to eat, they would never deny them service.The O'Connors aren't caterers or flower arrangers arguing that their work is personal and handcrafted and thus invested with meaning for them in a way that a sandwich at a Southern lunch counter in the civil rights era wasn't for its preparers and servers. A pizza is a pizza. The people who own Memories will make you one if you're gay and walk in the door, but they won't make exactly the same pizza for your wedding, because weddings are the turf of moral authorities -- God and religious leaders -- and you're sullying it.
The O'Connors say they just don't agree with gay marriages and wouldn't cater them if asked to.
I don't get this. If you believe in your God and your moral code, if you think there's one consistent moral law that applies everywhere, why is it OK to be gay before a civil clerk but not a minister? Why is it OK to be gay in a booth at a pizzeria but not at a wedding? Are you sticking up for your morality, or just defending what you think of as God's territory? And if it's the latter, what means more to you -- leading a moral life as you define it, or being part of God's gang?