Florists, cake bakers and wedding photographers across Texas will be called upon to violate their religious principles by performing their chosen secular professions next week, if the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the side of marriage equality. Never before have Christians been asked to put aside their beliefs in order to double, maybe triple their incomes. But, of course, it’s not about money.
I do find something odd, however.
After the recent massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., a memorial of flowers appeared outside the church. I’m willing to bet some of the same homophobic florists who are trying to martyr themselves as victims of same-sex marriage are also racists. Yet none complained of the extra business generated as a result of that act of terrorism by a white, Christian thug.
Nor among the racist rants following Trevon Martin’s slaughter did we hear complaints from racist florists in Florida who defended the murderer’s right to shoot an unarmed teenager. No, they took the money and sent the bouquets.
Because florists do business two ways. In one model of their business, someone comes in, picks some flowers, pays for them, takes them with them and leaves. In another, a florist receives an order for a certain floral arrangement or a number of arrangements. Then, the florist fills that order and delivers them.
One’s Christian beliefs do not enter into the transaction — even when one calls himself a Christian, yet maintains racist attitudes and despises the victim.
Let’s take another example and talk about how Christian bakers have never compromised their religious principles to bake a cake.
A bar mitzvah is a Jewish rite of passage. A child, usually at the age of 13, is called to read from the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, for the first time. The religious service is often followed by a party.
I’ve never heard of an anti-Semitic cake baker refusing to bake a cake for a bar mitzvah.
“I’m not baking for that bar mitzvah,” these good Christian bakers should exclaim. “They do same-sex weddings at that synagogue.”
Or when I’ve gone to Kroger to pick up a cake for an after-Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) reception, I’ve never had a cake decorator refuse to write “L’Shanah tovah tikatevu,” meaning “May you be inscribed in the book of life for good year,” a convoluted way of saying happy new year.
“Why that’s for a synagogue of mostly gays right here in Oak Lawn and I bet they do same-sex weddings,” the Christian Kroger cake decorator should indignantly declare.
I’ve had to write down the spelling, but I’ve never been refused. Or called an anti-Jewish epithet.
Yet, I’m sure some of those racist, homophobic bakers we’ve been hearing so much about in the news are also anti-Semitic. I’m sure some of them might even attend First Baptist Church right here in Dallas, Texas — the same church whose pastor made such horrific statements about the Holocaust recently that the Dallas Holocaust Museum invited him to visit so he could learn some actual history.
Why, doesn’t the very concept of a bar mitzvah or a religious year that doesn’t coincide with their religious year fly in the face of their version Christianity?
It certainly does, as much as my synagogue continuing to perform marriages between two people that may soon be recognized by the state of Texas and the federal government.
But I’ve never heard of an outcry among Christian bakers to boycott Jewish cakes. Instead, I’ll bet my cake decorator went home and had a funny story to tell.
“I decorated a cake today that said ‘Happy New Year’ in Hebrew! In September!” I’ll bet she said.
For wedding cakes, the average price in Dallas is $2-3.50 per slice. For an average-sized wedding of 100 guests, that a $200-350 sale. Sorry to burden your religious principles by having to write “Adam and Steve” rather than “Adam and Eve,” to put it in words you’ve repeated so many times you’ve become a boring cliché. And the gays don’t like to skimp. I think the average cake sale will be higher than that.
Then there are those homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic wedding photographers. Photographers get a little trickier, and it has nothing to do with their religious beliefs. The photographer will actually be at the event.
At an interracial or black wedding, the couple wouldn’t want a photographer who despises them. Photography is an art and it will show in the finished product with lousy photographs. A Jewish or interfaith couple wouldn’t want a photographer spewing anti-Semitic rants at the guests or one who didn’t understand and embrace the customs.
A Jewish couple wants a great photograph of breaking the glass and needs the photographer to know that when everyone dances around the couple and parents hoisted on chairs, it is a big deal. The photographer needs to know how to get the memorable shots.
Same thing at a same-sex wedding. In states that have marriage equality, photographers have learned that shooting a same-sex wedding is its own art form. One groom won’t be coyly posed on the other groom’s lap. Nor will one throw the bouquet. There may not be bridesmaids wearing gowns designed to make an ugly bride look better, but there may be a whole bevy of groomslesbians. Two women may both be wearing dresses. One or both may be in tuxedos. Its just formal wear. No need to freak out.
For a photographer looking to avoid weddings between same-sex couples, there are easy and polite ways to avoid them. It’ll take some work and something called courtesy. These suggestions won’t work for someone looking to start screaming, “I’m Christian and I’m being discriminated against because you’re getting married. It’s the same thing as the Holocaust.”
Here’s how to do what you’re comfortable doing in a way that insults no one and avoids charges of discrimination.
“I have no experience doing same-sex weddings,” a photographer might say, honestly.
“Thanks for letting us know,” the gay or lesbian couple should respond and look for someone who does have experience or is eager to gain that experience. The couple will be happier with the results. The unwilling photographer will lose out on a big, new market.
Or the photographer might say, “Oooo, June 14 you say? I’m sorry, I’m booked for every weekend in June next year.”
That photographer was polite and avoided covering something that will be uncomfortable for him or her. The gay or lesbian couple finds someone who wants the business. Everyone’s happy. No one is charging discrimination. No one’s religious convictions are violated.
Do these versions of politeness cover up bigotry? I’m not sure they really do, because I don’t think any homophobic baker, florist or photographer will be able to use them. They’re so blinded by the idea that somehow my civil wedding, which will allow me to file joint taxes with Brian, add him to health insurance policy entirely at my cost if we decide to do so and about 1,000 other special rights heterosexual couples have always enjoyed, interferes with their Christianity demeans and degrades their own religion.
It can’t be on religious grounds that they actually object, unless they’re saying they object to Jewish religious practice. Nothing changes in Judaism. Our rabbis continue performing weddings for same-sex couples, and Israel continues to recognize our marriages.
As one last desperate measure, I have another way to avoid lawsuits and embarrassment for those good Christian bakers, florists and photographers.
If any and all homophobic wedding-related businesses — and that includes venues, restaurants and homophobic Indiana-style pizzerias — will leave their company information here, we’ll make sure a list of those wedding-service providers in the Dallas area who do not want to participate in our joyous occasions is widely distributed. As a caution, some straight people may not want to deal with you either, but why would you want anything to do with those heathens either?