How To Bake A Cake For A Gay Wedding
By David Metcalfe
August 2, 2018
When a couple orders a wedding cake at your bakery, it is a very simple process to prepare a cake that will lovely compliment the wedding.
First, you’ll need to gather your ingredients. These include butter, sugar, salt, flavoring, eggs, and flour. Then mix your ingredients together into the cake mold and place it in the oven for the allotted time. Take out the cake and put icing on in a way that looks nice. Then bring the cake out to your customers. If they are heterosexual, smile and congratulate them on the wedding. If they are homosexual, THROW THE CAKE IN THE GARBAGE AND TELL THEM TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!
Because, after all, being a member of a certain religious group gives you the right to be the moral police of society.
The Grocery Store of Upholding Personal Values
There is a really great grocery store that just opened up where all of the workers are guaranteed to be able to follow their conscience in what products they sell and who they sell them to. I went there the other day to pick up a few things.
First, I went to get some bacon and eggs for my breakfast the next day. At the first till, the cashier was Muslim, so she couldn’t ring my groceries through since it included bacon. At the next till, the cashier was an animal rights activist, so he couldn’t ring my groceries through because he believed the chickens were raised inhumanely. At the third till, the cashier was fine with bacon and eggs, but noticed I was wearing a “Denver Broncos” t-shirt and said she couldn’t serve me because she believes football gives people concussions.
I went home and put on blank, grey clothes and when I got back to the store I just grabbed some oatmeal, hoping no one would be offended by my appearance or choice of breakfast. I almost got through the till, but I made one tragic mistake; I mentioned that I like to drink a cup of coffee with my oatmeal. The cashier looked at me with horror, as if he had just seen a ghost, and exclaimed, “I’m Mormon! I can’t sell this to you in good conscience knowing you are going to be consuming coffee with it!”.
As much as I wanted to allow these people to uphold their personal values in the workplace, I started to question it a bit the next morning as my empty stomach growled. If that Muslim girl doesn’t eat bacon because she believes it’s morally wrong, why am I expected to follow her personal ethic? If that animal rights activist believes that eating eggs is wrong, how is me purchasing eggs infringing on his right to not eat eggs? Can that lady who doesn’t support football discriminate against me for being a football fan? Why does she get to decide what I wear? Why does the Mormon decide I can’t drink coffee with my oatmeal?
The Ethical Divide
You might be starting to think, “it’s so absurd that someone could impose their ethic on someone else like that by denying them service based on a difference of opinion.” But imagine this scenario:
A neo-Nazi walks into a custom t-shirt store and requests a shirt that says “Kill All Jews” with a picture of Anne Frank in a concentration camp. Is the t-shirt maker obligated to make a shirt for this person? If we say that the Muslim has to sell bacon to the customer, don’t we also have to say that the t-shirt maker has to sell the requested Nazi t-shirt?
The simple answer is no, we don’t. These are very different requests for a number of reasons, but let me cover the main ones by establishing a couple major concepts.
Values and Norms
Of vital importance in sociology is the differentiation of norms and values. Richard T. Morris from the University of California defined it this way:
“Values are individual, or commonly shared conceptions of the desirable, i.e. what I and/or others justifiably want- what it is felt proper to want. On the other hand, norms are generally accepted, sanctioned prescriptions for, or prohibitions against, others’ behavior, belief, or feeling, i.e. what others ought to do, believe, feel- or else. Values can be held by a single individual; norms cannot. Norms must be shared prescriptions and apply to others, by definition. Values have only a subject- the believer- while norms have both subjects and objects- those who set the prescription, and those to whom it applies. Norms always include sanctions; values never do.” (Morris, 1956)
Basically, values are internal, individual ideas of right and wrong, while norms are a shared understanding of how to act. We get many of our norms from the values that we share in accordance with what is deemed to be the common good. In a democratic society, we then create laws based on these norms.
That’s why the normative typology goes as follows: values-> norms-> laws.
As it moves, it goes from most individual and least binding, to least individual and most binding. This ensures that people are not forced to act in accordance with obscure or arbitrary values.
For example, there is a value amongst individuals in America that murder is wrong. Because it is commonly held, it becomes a norm that we should not murder people. Then when creating laws, we make murder illegal.
But with an obscure value, the process does not move forward. For example, if 5 people in all of America hate chocolate, it will not become a norm to refrain from chocolate, and thus, never a law.
The values in between are the really interesting and controversial ones. For example, the value of believing marijuana to be bad for society was very mixed. Because it was very mixed, certain people were disgusted by marijuana and would socially punish it, while others condoned or even encouraged it. Then the law became very difficult, because there was no clear norm to establish it. However, public opinion has recently shifted in favour of marijuana legalization, so much so that a clear norm was able to be established, and a law came to be in accordance with that.
I think we can all agree that murder should be illegal and chocolate should be legal, so the normative typology is effective in accomplishing the will of the people in those cases. But what about the people who are not part of the majority opinion? Their values do not get acknowledged in the norms or the laws! Those 5 Americans who hate chocolate will have to live their whole lives with a bunch of chocolate eaters. Where is the protection of their right to not be around people who eat chocolate?
Well, there isn’t one. No person has a right to infringe on the rights of others. Just because you don’t like chocolate doesn’t mean you can stop others from eating chocolate. That is a key component of liberalism, which is the political and societal philosophy this nation was based on. In 1776, America revolutionized the values of society by claiming that all people have natural rights to life, liberty and property, and that these must be in accordance with equality and justice for all (Lloyd, 2018). Just because someone thinks or acts a different way in their own values does not give you the right to restrict them. This is why tolerance is absolutely necessary in order to ensure the freedom and harmony of all people, including those we disagree with.
The law works to balance the will of the majority with the rights of minorities. Because, with only majority rule, the two wolves may very well vote to eat the sheep. With only minority rights, we lose democracy altogether. It is somewhere in this balance that we are able to truly maximize liberty for all. And the balance is simple: the majority gets to determine the norms and laws, but the natural rights to believe and express individual values are guaranteed regardless.
The Religious and Social Ethic
The differentiation between values and norms translates to an ethical differentiation in how we operate in society. Values are followed by the individual, and create a personal ethic. Norms are followed by the group, and create a social ethic. Laws are followed universally by society, and create a legal ethic. In one’s personal life, one is free to believe and practice as one pleases, and a religious ethic may form a substantial aspect of values for some. However, in the public sphere, we adhere to the social and legal ethic that has been determined by the majority. It is only in respecting the democratic process that we are able to enjoy the benefits of a government by and for the people.
Refusing to allow gay people to be married was once an accepted and shared value in society, and the norms and laws reflected it. But society’s values have changed, and the collective values have formed into a new concept of norms and laws where gay people are allowed to get married. It has even been determined by the Supreme Court that it is all people’s natural right to marry a person of the gender they want. It does not mean that you have to change your value to be in accordance with it, but it does mean you have a social and legal ethic to adhere to. Denying a gay couple the right to marry, after it has been determined by society and the constitution to be permissible, is denying democracy and liberalism itself.
Society would be absurd and wholly impractical if not for well established norms to adhere to. These norms form a social ethic that we operate by to uphold democracy and the natural rights of people in a civil way. When I go to the grocery store and have a Muslim cashier, I have a right to expect her to accept my order if it includes bacon, but I can’t force her to eat it. In order to uphold my right to eating bacon and her right not to, we both need to aspire towards the virtue of tolerance in affirming each other’s different beliefs.
A t-shirt maker who is asked to print Nazi propaganda is not required to do so, because Nazism clearly violates the norms and laws of our society. Nazism is inherently a rejection of democracy and natural rights, and supporting it is in violation of the social and legal ethic our society has determined.
When gay people want to have a wedding, and have valid money to pay for a cake, it is not only rude to deny them service; it is going against the fundamental societal ethics that define freedom, equality, and justice in a harmonious state. While those Christian people do not need to practice homosexuality in their own lives or allow them at their religious institutions if that is a value they have, they are not allowed to determine the values of others in the public sphere. Instead, they must learn to be tolerant.
When it comes to gay weddings, I urge us to take a note from the late Queen of France, who said, “Let them eat cake!”.
Lloyd, G. Introduction to the Bill of Rights. Teaching American History. Retrieved from http://teachingamericanhistory.org/bor/bor-intro/
Morris, R. (1956). A Typology of Norms. American Sociological Review. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/2089098?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents