Hitched: Let Them Eat Gay Cake!

On Bigotry
Andrea Grimes on love, politics and bigotry. Read More »

Last week, an interracial couple showed up for their wedding cake tasting at a small, family owned bakery in Colorado. But when the shop owner caught sight of the together-for-two-years pair, he turned them away because he doesn’t believe interracial couples should get married.

In a statement to the local television station, Jack Phillips, the owner of the Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood, Colorado, said he and his family believe so strongly that blacks and whites should not marry that “we would close down the bakery before we would compromise our beliefs.”

Phillips has been overwhelmed by community support for his stance. After the interracial couple complained to media of the bakery’s refusal, Phillips says he had “about twice as much business as normal,” with Coloradans coming out in droves to buy sweets from a man who believes marriage should be reserved only for people who are the same race as their partners.

Weird, right, that in 2012, people would be so proud to support such a clearly racist business? Well, I’ve fudged some details: the couple that wanted to buy a cake from the Masterpiece Cake Shop isn’t interracial. They’re gay.

The New York Daily News sums up the story pretty well: Dave Mullin and Charlie Craig wanted a wedding cake, so they did what many, many couples do. They went to a cake tasting. Unfortunately for them, they scheduled their tasting at a cake shop owned by a bigot.

Of course, owner Jack Phillips doesn’t see it that way. He’s totally down with gay people — they can give him all their money as far as he is concerned! Just not for their big gay wedding cakes!

Phillips says, via the NYDN: “If gays come in and want to order birthday cakes or any cakes for any occasion, graduations, or whatever, I have no prejudice against that whatsoever. It’s just the wedding cake, not the people, not their lifestyle.”

See, gays? It’s not you he doesn’t like, it’s just how you think your “lifestyle” should include the same access to one of the fundamental structures of human society that straight people get. The problem isn’t so much that people are gay, especially if they’d like to pay Phillips to make literally anything other than a wedding cake, it’s that they’re gay and participating in society. Minor distinction. The teeniest of technicalities.

I realize I went all Matthew McConaughey in A Time To Kill on y’all up there, but the fact is, even though it’s currently perfectly acceptable to publicly believe gay people are inferior to heterosexual people (and to loudly celebrate that by buying fast-food chicken sandwiches, USA USA USA!), that won’t always be the case.

Anyone would recognize the overt racism of someone who refused to do wedding cake business with an interracial couple; why it’s so hard to see that having the same attitude toward a gay couple is straight-up bigotry, I don’t know. There are varying degrees of homophobia, sure: there’s the Jack Phillips flavor, and the “I’d like to make a special effort to buy Jack Phillips’ delicious hate pastry” flavor, and the “I couldn’t decide between hate chicken and hate pastry today so I went with the chicken but I’m with Jack Phillips in spirit” flavor, and the “I agree fundamentally with the message of hate pastry, but I don’t hate gay people, just the fact that they think they deserve the same rights as me,” flavor. But basically it all comes down to how willing you are to be a bigot in public.

It must make people feel better to think that the Jack Phillipses of the world are just misguided. Or ill-informed. Or wonky. Or whatever. Certainly the Jack Phillipses of the world are all of these things. But they’re also hateful bigots. Because if you’re more invested in oppressing people — and banning gay people from getting married and/or knowingly supporting those who do is to be party to oppression — than you are invested in, say, a proven way to improve the American economy, your conservative jig is up.

Right-wingers talk a big game about The Economy, revering it as if it always has capital letters, but when it comes to choosing between taking concrete steps to improve it or oppressing marginalized groups, those folks go for oppression every time. Paycheck Fairness Act? Doesn’t fly with conservatives. Violence Against Women Act? Republicans need their arms twisted on it. Family planning? Better cut that demonstrably money-saving, quality-of-life-improving budget. If there’s been a Republican-backed economic improvement bill in the past couple of years, it must have been washed away in a wave of John Boehner’s tears, because I missed it.

I bring up the issue of economic improvement because, as I mentioned earlier, legalizing gay marriage is an established economy-booster, and anyone who’s been anywhere near a wedding in the last quarter century or so knows what a beast the Wedding Industrial Complex can be.

If you’ve been following Hitched over the last several months, you know what an extreme un-fan of the Wedding Industrial Complex I am; I’m not arguing that gay people deserve to be made miserable by rampant consumerism just the same as straight people. I am arguing that they deserve to be able to go to a cake tasting without being run out of town while a mob gathers to celebrate their shared hatred over cookies. If more people are buying cakes because more people can get married, America wins. Pretty basic, and pretty conservative.

Because I do detest the Wedding Industrial Complex so much, I think an interesting and paradigm-shifting way to combat it is by opening up the marriage process to include more than just monied heterosexual people doing the big-white-dress-and-string-quartet thing. No, I’m not excited about more people feeling pressured to perform Capital-W-Wedding, but I am excited about seeing an industry adapt to the needs of a group of people who’ve never been able to actively, personally participate in it before, and who are approaching it from a different angle than straight men and straight women with their respective histories and social experiences, which we already know so much about.

To me, that bodes well for everyone who, like me, wants weddings to be about marriages and not about showboating and societal pressure. I know many people — including many, if not mostly, gay activists — who don’t think marriage equality is the answer for gay folks, and that it’s just another way of forcing them to assimilate into a restrictive society. I could definitely be convinced of that argument.

But gay people, like all people, deserve to be able to make those choices for themselves, to marry or not marry, to participate in the thing or push back against it, based on what they want to do as human beings who live in the world. If they want cake? Let them eat cake. If they want to smash cake, let them smash cake.

Contact the author of this post at Andrea.Grimes@Gmail.com.

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