Wedding Cakes Have Nothing To Do with Free Speech, by Jacob G. Hornberger

The wedding cake case is not, when properly analyzed, about freedom of speech, but rather private property and the freedom to use one’s own property as one sees fit. From Jacob G. Hornberger at fff.org:

 

The New York Times recently carried an interesting article on the wedding-cake controversy that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The article pointed out that prominent lawyers who specialize in First Amendment cases are “vexed” by the controversy.

The facts of the case are simple: A Colorado bakeshop refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple. The state charged the baker with unlawful discrimination. Those vexed lawyers are having trouble deciding whether the baker has a First Amendment right to refuse to create a wedding cake for the gay couple. Some of them say yes and some say no.

Floyd Abrams, who the Times calls the nation’s most prominent First Amendment lawyer, at first leaned toward the baker, repelled by the notion that the state could require him to create some sort of artistic rendering that violated his conscience. But then he started leaning the other way, asking “Could a painter invite the public to his gallery at which he painted portraits of them for a fee but refused to paint black people?” Abrams finally came down on the side of the gay couple.

Eugene Volokh, who the Times describes as a “leading First Amendment scholar,” sided with the gay couple as well. While photographers and painters have the First Amendment right to decide which commissions to take, Volokh says, it’s different with bakers. A chef cannot claim a free speech right not to serve people at his restaurant, he said, no matter how beautiful his dishes look.

Ilya Shapiro, a lawyer with the Cato Institute, said that writers, singers, actors, and painters are entitled to First Amendment protection but not caterers and limousine drivers. Bakers, he said, are a close call because they are “close to the line.” Shapiro has sided with the baker.

The legal controversy vexing all these great legal minds is a classic example of what happens when the courts compromise (i.e., abandon) the principles of freedom. When that happens, it produces situations where lawyers are “vexed” and end up doing their best to pound square legal pegs into round legal holes.

To continue reading: Wedding Cakes Have Nothing To Do with Free Speech

 

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