LAKEWOOD, Colo. – Chick-fil-A’s president recently spoke out against same-sex marriage, sparking a huge uproar in the gay community, and now the issue is spilling over to a Colorado bakery, CBS Denver station KCNC-TV reports.
The owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood refused to bake a wedding cake for a local same-sex couple, and now people are pushing a boycott against the owner.
Shop owner Jack Phillips probably didn’t think he was going to be wading into a civil rights debate when he told the couple that he would not make a cake for their wedding, but that’s exactly what has happened.
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Mullin and Craig [the gay couple denied the cake] were stunned. They went online and posted their experience on Facebook. The response has been huge.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the shop on Saturday and were very angry.
Bigger protests are planned. Meanwhile, of course, gay marriage opponents are buying more cakes at this bakery. And so the politicization of the marketplace continues.
Where you come down on this probably depends on how you view opposition to same sex marriage. If you support it, then denying same sex couples seems like an affront. If you are against it on moral grounds, it probably seems like a business owner following his principles, and getting punished for it.
Me, I support same sex marriage, but I am not self-righteous in my condemnation of those who don’t. My view is that the owner should have the right to sell cakes to whomever he wants, and customers should have the right to buy cakes from whomever they want.
I am ambivalent on boycotts generally. They are an example of free speech, to be sure, and why should anyone have to buy from (or sell to!) people they consider immoral? At the same time, boycotts have a whiff of totalitarianism about them — an effort to actively punish people for their opinions. Often those who carry out a boycott don’t stop there, but also run off to government to try to enlist its help in stamping out speech they don’t like.
In addition, it bothers me that the country increasingly seems to be mixing business and politics, to the point where you seemingly have to be careful about where you buy your groceries, what movies you see, what TV you watch, etc. — all in the name of political purity. It’s not just the consumers’ fault, either. When Chick-fil-A or this wedding cake guy or any number of liberal businesses make a public spectacle of their political leanings, they are inviting customers to be offended.
There was a great story in the Atlantic recently about Chris Christie’s unrequited love for Bruce Springsteen. Like many from New Jersey, Christie is a lifelong Springsteen fan. But Springsteen treats Christie like dirt:
Despite heroic efforts by Christie, Springsteen, who is still a New Jersey resident, will not talk to him. They’ve met twice—once on an airplane in 1999, and then at the 2010 ceremony inducting Danny DeVito into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, where they exchanged only formal pleasantries. (Christie does say that Springsteen was very kind to his children.) At concerts, even concerts in club-size venues—the Stone Pony, in Asbury Park, most recently—Springsteen won’t acknowledge the governor. When Christie leaves a Springsteen concert in a large arena, his state troopers move him to his motorcade through loading docks. He walks within feet of the stage, and of the dressing rooms. He’s never been invited to say hello. On occasion, he’ll make a public plea to Springsteen, as he did earlier this spring, when Christie asked him to play at a new casino in Atlantic City. “He says he’s for the revitalization of the Jersey Shore, so this seems obvious,” Christie told me. I asked him if he’s received a response to his request. “No, we got nothing back from them,” he said unhappily, “not even a ‘Fuck you.’”
So how does Christie handle this? By boycotting Springsteen? He would never do that.
And then comes that moment in every Springsteen concert when he brings everything to a halt in order to provide his diagnosis of exactly what ails the country. It’s a tradition, like playing “Born to Run” with the house lights up. The band quiets, and Springsteen steps to the mic. I’m curious to see how Christie handles the homily. Springsteen has become an angry man over the past 10 years, angry at the sort of people—billionaires, to be precise—who gathered last summer in New York to try to persuade Christie to run for president.
Christie calls over to his brother, Todd—who made his money as a Wall Street trader—and says, “Attention please, it’s a lecture. Lecture time.” Springsteen begins to mumble in what the music critic Jody Rosen calls his “flat Dust Bowl Okie accent,” and I can’t make out a word he’s saying. I ask Christie if he understands him.
“You want to know what he’s saying?,” Christie asks. “He’s telling us that rich people like him are fucking over poor people like us in the audience, except that us in the audience aren’t poor, because we can afford to pay 98 bucks to him to see his show. That’s what he’s saying.”
Wait a second, this is Bruce Springsteen we’re talking about, the guy you adore?
“I compartmentalize,” Christie says.
I do that all the time. If you don’t want to give up watching movies and listening to music, you’re going to have to put up with the fact that some of the artists you admire turn into jerks when it comes to politics. Most of the time I can live with that — as long as the artist isn’t unbearably obnoxious about it, and sometimes (depending on their talent level) even when they are.
He told me once that he accepts Springsteen’s “limousine liberal” politics the way a spouse accepts an annoying tic in her partner. “There is some of his work that is dour and down,” he says, “but the thing that attracted me to his music is how aspirational it is—aspirational to success, to fun, to being a better person, to figuring out how to make your life better—and you can’t say that about most people’s music. They become successful and then they become self-consumed and then boring and narcissistic.”
In refusing to become bitter about Springsteen’s rejection of him, Christie comes off very well, while Springsteen comes off looking like a self-righteous jerk. In this way, Christie shows himself to be — I can’t help it — the bigger man.
Again: people should be free to buy and sell for whatever reasons they like. Chris Christie would be well within his rights to gripe about Bruce Springsteen’s attitude — to boycott his concerts and encourage others to do the same. But he seems to have a better time being Springsteen’s fan.
Somehow I feel like both the wedding cake maker and his customers could all learn from Christie’s example. They would both be better off if they concentrated more on making and seeking out the best cakes possible, and laid off the politics.
Since that’s not going to happen, everyone will have to make their own buying and selling decisions, and the marketplace will decide. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about watching the marketplace become increasingly politicized.