Conservative pundit Erick Erickson says that "Jesus Christ would absolutely bake a cake for a gay person."* In fact, he says that if any Christian owns "a bakery or a florist shop or a photography shop or a diner," then he or she "should no more be allowed to deny service to a gay person than to a black person."
In his telling, almost everyone agrees. "The disagreement comes on one issue only—should a Christian provide goods and services to a gay wedding," he says. "That’s it. We’re not talking about serving a meal at a restaurant. We’re not talking about baking a cake for a birthday party. We’re talking about a wedding, which millions of Christians view as a sacrament of the faith and other, mostly Protestant Christians, view as a relationship ordained by God to reflect a holy relationship."
This slope is only slippery if you grease it with hypotheticals not in play. There are Christians who have no problem providing goods and services for a gay marriage. Some of them are fine with gay marriage. Some of them think gay marriage is wrong, but they still have no problem providing goods and services. Other Christians, including a significant number of Catholic and Protestant preachers, believe that a gay marriage is a sinful corruption of a relationship God himself ordained. Because they try to glorify God through their work, they believe they cannot participate in a wedding service.
Yes, because they believe they are glorifying God in their work and view it as a ministry, they view providing goods and services as a way to advance, even in a small way, God’s kingdom. Herein lies the dispute of the day... We are not talking about race. We are not talking about restaurants. We are talking about a specific ceremony people of faith believe God himself created and ordained. Should the state force people to violate their conscience in that regard?
On those points, Andrew Sullivan agrees. He writes:
I would never want to coerce any fundamentalist to provide services for my wedding—or anything else for that matter—if it made them in any way uncomfortable. The idea of suing these businesses to force them to provide services they are clearly uncomfortable providing is anathema to me. I think it should be repellent to the gay rights movement as well.
The truth is: we’re winning this argument. We’ve made the compelling moral case that gay citizens should be treated no differently by their government than straight citizens. And the world has shifted dramatically in our direction. Inevitably, many fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews and many Muslims feel threatened and bewildered by such change and feel that it inchoately affects their religious convictions. I think they’re mistaken—but we’re not talking logic here. We’re talking religious conviction. My view is that in a free and live-and-let-live society, we should give them space.
This whole debate strikes me as faintly absurd. Since when does supplying a cake or flowers to an event signify one's endorsement of its contents? (I'd happily bake a cake for the NSA holiday party next year if the gig pays enough.) But I agree with Sullivan. Gays and lesbians ought to have the court-enforced right to marry everywhere in America. Happily, they will achieve social equality in short order even absent laws that coerce Christian businesses to extend equal treatment even when highly particular issues of conscience pose an occasional conflict.