Long after the gay marriage tide has turned at a tsunami level, long after we seemed to be safely into the post-wedding reception phase, the battle is still going on.
“Save the Date” alerts could turn into “Save the Decade.”
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would rule in June on surviving state bans. Last weekend, a gathering of potential Republican presidential candidates in Iowa made it clear they don’t plan to end their resistance, at least not during primary season. Several Southern states are digging in for a gay marriage Gettysburg.
And in Oregon, we’re fighting the issue out over cake.
Dessert has always been important here.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from residents of states where federal courts have refused to overturn state laws against gay marriage. Since the court refused in 2013 to hear an appeal from states where federal courts had thrown out state laws – such as Oregon – observers think they know the likely outcome.
(Who, planning a same-sex wedding in one of the 14 states where it’s still illegal, ever expected to have nine more guests?)
But on this issue, it seems not everybody considers the Supreme Court supreme.
“There’s no such thing in the Constitution as judicial supremacy,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told an Iowa audition for GOP presidential candidates last weekend, “where the courts make a ruling and it becomes quote ‘the law of the land.’” (Unquote.) Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared he wasn’t changing his position against gay marriage, and a prominent Iowa activist warned that any Republican candidate waffling on the issue could forget Iowa.
In Alabama, where a federal judge just threw out the state’s law, Chief Justice Roy Moore declared he wasn’t bound by the ruling, writing the governor, “As you know, nothing in the United States Constitution grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of marriage.” Making an even more striking constitutional point, last week an Alabama Democratic lesbian state senator – presumably the only one – warned that if her colleagues kept talking of family values, she would tell the world of their extramarital activities.
(So much for the claim that what happens in Montgomery stays in Montgomery.)
Meanwhile, Texas state Rep. Cecil Bell has introduced a bill to block the salary of any state or local official who recognizes a same-sex marriage, with similar bills introduced in South Carolina and Oklahoma. Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., no doubt chortling over his cleverness, asked attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch the constitutional difference between gay marriage and polygamy.
Much of the country is still pretty frosted.
And in Oregon, we’re dealing with frosting.
Two years after Sweet Cakes by Melissa, in Gresham, refused to produce a wedding cake for two women, the case is due for a hearing before an administrative law judge in March. The issue has risen like a national angel food cake in a hot oven.
If this doesn’t seem quite on the level of the rights battle still being waged elsewhere, we’re not entirely alone. Colorado – sometimes called the Oregon of the Rocky Mountains – is currently having not one but two gay rights bakery battles.
Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Bakery in Lakewood, Colo., who refused to produce a wedding cake for two men, has been ordered by a court to do so, and has so far responded by getting out of the wedding cake business.
In January, we also learned that Azucar Bakery in Denver is the subject of a civil rights investigation for refusing to make an anti-gay rights cake bearing four biblical quotations, including “Homosexuality is a detestable sin—Leviticus 18:22.”
You’d think the bakery could just say it wasn’t quite that skilled with icing.
Instead, the proprietor offered to bake a cake in the requested
Bible shape, give the customer the frosting and let him write what he wanted, following the Constitution’s freedom of cake clause. The state of Colorado is now considering the issue.
These wedding cake fights could go on for a long time, a kind of Thirty Tiers War.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry is pursuing the Sweet Cakes case. Last week, Charlie Burr, spokesman for labor commissioner Brad Avakian, explained, “We have a duty to enforce the Oregon Equality Act,” and legally he may well be right.
But with an angry human rights argument still going on, from the Supreme Court to Alabama, we don’t want to get lost on a trail of crumbs.
Culture wars are crucial.
Cake wars belong on the Food Network.
NOTE: This column appeared in The Sunday Oregonian, 2/1/15.