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Policy: Law

Colorado officials on same-sex marriage opponents: Make them bake cake!

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Opinion,Columnists,David Harsanyi,Gay Marriage,Colorado,Constitutionality,Freedom of Religion,Law

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission has ordered a suburban Denver baker named Jack Phillips to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, finding that his religious objections do not supersede the state's anti-discrimination statutes. Because if the Constitution should be subordinate to anything, it's the local thought police, hurt feelings and nuptial pastries.

Raju Jaram, one of the reprehensible unelected commissioners — whose contact information is nowhere to be found on Colorado's government site — apparently had this to say about the case: "I can believe anything I want, but if I'm going to do business here, I'd ought to not discriminate against people."

No, you can't. Because Phillips isn't discriminating against gay Coloradans. Gay customers, as far as all the news stories have suggested, are free to shop in the bakery and purchase (at the same price) any of the cakes, cookies and pastries they like, without ever being asked by anyone whom they love or what the gender equation is in their sex life. Public accommodations, fine. But the fact is that Phillips does not want to participate in a very specific ceremony, because he holds authentic, well-documented, age-old religious objections to such an event — in the same way that a Hasidic Jew or an orthodox Muslim might not want to participate in a ceremony that proclaims that Jesus is our lord and savior. Maybe if we begin forcing atheists to party plan baptisms, the point would become clearer. Actually, maybe if we begin forcing Orthodox rabbis and imams to perform gay weddings, the point would be even clearer.

Though you and I may find Phillips' objections lacking in merit or even objectionable, according to the blueprint of the American founding, religious concerns should take precedence over any "civil rights" of cake seekers. Forcing Americans to violate their religious beliefs should be avoided unless there is a clear and undeniable compelling interest. There is none here. Is there no other establishment that bakes cakes in all of Lakewood, Colorado? Because I found at least a dozen other bakeries in the town and surrounding areas that would probably be happy to bake a cake for a gay wedding in Colorado — even though, by the way, same-sex marriage is not even legal in the state yet. Capitalism, thankfully, provides gay Coloradans with a bunch of pro-gay businesses they could support less than a mile away.

It is unclear what power the Colorado Civil Rights Commission has to enforce its ruling. Does it fine Phillips until he's out of business? In an earlier ruling, an administrative law judge ruled that Phillips could not "turn away" gay couples seeking cake but did not impose fines in the case. Perhaps the National Guard -- as the National Journal's Ron Fournier once implicitly suggested for this sort of case -- should be called in to ensure that all the egg whites are properly separated from the yolks. Or perhaps President Barack Obama could chime in with, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche." Which would be misleading -- because the idea that people should be left alone to live their lives as they see fit is quickly morphing into the ugly idea that we should all be forced to participate in your life.

DAVID HARSANYI, a Washington Examiner columnist, is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.
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David Harsanyi

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The Washington Examiner