Baker’s choice…

A baker refused, very politely apparently, to provide a wedding cake to a gay couple because he was against same sex marriage.

I am moved to comment on this after listening to aghast responses on the topic from panellists on Radio New Zealand: ‘Stupid.’ and ‘Homophobic.’ And ‘It’s the same as refusing to serve a coloured person in a cafe.’  Is it?

‘Stupid’ is a bit harsh so we’ll ignore it, but Homophobic? Probably, but some people who were happy with civil unions for gay people are against same sex marriage. Because, how can a man have a husband? How can a woman have a wife? Well, that’s just being pedantic about language, surely! I doubt if George Orwell would agree.

But for the sake of argument let’s assume the baker is homophobic. He’s entitled to be. It’s not against the law. He may think the practice of gay sex and marriage is harmful to society or against the teachings of his religion, say. And on the grounds of the harm it does to children, he may equally be against unmarried mothers and fathers who have multiple relationships. That’s not stupid.  Or he may simply be rigid in his thinking and not the kind of person you’d want to accompany on a long journey.

But if we compel bakers to make cakes for same sex marriage celebrations shouldn’t we also compel doctors, regardless of their beliefs, to perform abortions for women who don’t want children? Is our discriminating baker any different to the cafe owner who refuses to serve someone of a different colour or ethnic group? I’m open to argument on this one but I don’t think so. The difference, I think, is that a cafe is generally considered to be a public place where, unless they misbehave, everyone is entitled to service. But it’s tricky area and I’m not certain. What I am certain about is that the baker is entitled to a fair hearing.

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Chris Horan

Chris is a former social worker, probation officer and Family Court counsellor, living in Hawea in the South Island.