The State of Colorado actively discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation by refusing to recognize same-sex marriages. As a matter of religious conviction, Denver businessman Jack Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, declines make wedding cakes for homosexual couples.
Government has no authority to define marriage, let alone to punish those who reject an official definition of that pre-political institution. Yet the same Colorado government that withholds official recognition of same-sex marriages threatened to fine and imprison Phillips for exercising his property rights by turning down a business opportunity — thereby foregoing an opportunity to profit because of deeply held religious convictions.
Phillips had a brief conversation in July 2012 with Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who were interested in buying a wedding cake. The baker quite amiably explained that “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies. I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.”
There are at least nineteen other bakeries in the same section of Denver, and within a very short time the couple was able to hire the services of another businessman who produced a cake with a rainbow filling. They suffered no injury apart from the inconsolable offense they felt at being informed that Mr. Phillips doesn’t share their views regarding same-sex marriage. Accordingly, they filed a complaint with the state’s social relations soviet – officially known as the Colorado Human Rights Commission – which wound up before administrative law judge Robert Spencer.
The ruling that resulted is replete with begged questions and totalitarian premises. One specimen of the former is this statement: “[Phillips is] correct that Colorado does not recognize same-sex marriage, [but] that fact does not excuse discrimination based upon sexual orientation.” Presumably this is because discrimination, like homicide, is a government monopoly.
Elsewhere in the tortured work of sophistry Spencer calls a “ruling” he claims that although the couple endured no material injury, their “right” to be “free of discrimination in the marketplace” was infringed. According to the judge, “It is the state’s prerogative to minimize that harm by determining where [Phillips’] rights end and Complainants’ rights begin.”
All rights are individual property rights, and all property rights are absolute. Phillips committed no violation of property rights by refusing a business proposal. Judge Spencer’s claim assumes that property rights do not exist unless they are created and apportioned by the State, which – in keeping with Lenin’s formula – is the arbiter of who gets to do what to whom. The “who” in this case – as in a very similar recent case in New Mexico – can supposedly claim a property right in the labor of an unwilling producer. In this fashion, the “gay rights” movement is helping to restore the practice of involuntary servitude.
A few days ago, Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered Phillips to submit to invasive scrutiny of his business practices, and inflict sensitivity training on his employees. Phillips has responded by announcing that he’ll simply stop making wedding cakes for everybody – assuming, of course, that the state’s Diversity Cheka will permit him to make that choice.