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The Strange Case of the Gay Wedding Cake

On Tuesday the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which makes for an interesting argument.
The Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver  has a reputation for baking and decorating excellent cakes for most occasions, but despite that and the business’s slightly gay-sounding name the sole proprietor and master baker Jack C. Phillips holds to some unfashionably old-fashioned Biblical opinions about homosexuality and other controversial matters. When a homosexual couple asked Phillips to bake and decorate a cake in celebration of their upcoming nuptials, which have been blessed by a decision of the United States Supreme Court, Phillips politely declined the request based on his religious convictions, and thus he wound up afoul of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and after years of expensive litigation stands before the Supreme Court.
We won’t pretend to understand all the legal concepts involved, especially in the wake of that confounding Obergfell v. Hodges decision giving the Supreme Court’s blessing on same sex-marriages for arguable social justice reasons but with no apparent basis in any plain reading of the Constitution or common law or the past millennia of western civilization, but we more viscerally understand the issue on a personal basis. It’s complicated, of course, but we’re hoping that Phillips and his slightly gay-sounding Masterpiece Cakeshop prevail in the case.
Which is not to say we don’t understand the complicated issues involved in this gay-sounding case. We’re not only old-fashioned Christians but old-fashioned Republicans and strict constitutionalists as well, yet we’re also big fans of poetry and Broadway musicals and genteel manners who have somehow wound up with a suspicious number of homosexual friends over the years, and we have a few lesbians on our block who have proved excellent neighbors, and so far we’ve managed very cvil relations. This gives us hope the Supreme Court will arrive at something as sensible.
A couple of the young women we took an avuncular interest in when they were born have turned out to be lesbians, and one of them has married another woman with the blessings of the United States Supreme Court and her President Donald Trump-loving father, and we have longstanding friendships with a couple of men who have long considered themselves married without the Supreme Court’s blessings, and we’ve also seen quite a few of our friends’ homosexual relationships that didn’t last any longer than any of our heterosexual relationships, and by now we lean on the scriptures about judge not lest ye be judged,  and we wish all our loved ones well. Nor do we judge that artistic baker in Denver who objects to homosexual marriage, though, and we hope the Supreme Court will take a similarly forgiving attitude.
By all accounts, which by now have been long attested to under oath, the baker doesn’t withhold his usual services from homosexual customers. If you’d walked into his shop and declared yourself a homosexual customer wanting to buy a birthday cake for a homosexual friend he would have happily taken the order, and regardless of whether you’re straight or gay he’d have declined a request to bake a Halloween cake on religious grounds. Nothing in our old-fashioned Christian and Republican souls objects to trick-or-treating on Halloween, but both our Christian and libertarian instincts tell us he should have the right.
Those got-durned liberal fashion designers who decline to design dresses for President Donald Trump’s third First Lady deserve the same right, and so does any black baker who declines to decorate a cake with a confederate flag, and so does any homosexual baker who declines the Westboro Baptist Church’s request for a “God hate fags” cake. Outside of the legal arguments and here on the personal level, there’s no way of restricting one person’s liberty without eventually restricting the liberty of someone on the other side of political or cultural divide.
Several of our homosexual friends are close enough that we’ve discussed these issues with them frankly, and they’ve all said that if they wanted to get married with the federal government’s blessing they’d just find another bakery rather than take the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Wichita’s a big enough city they could surely find another baker, as is Denver, and like us they’re not the sorts to make an unnecessary fuss. They have a heightened awareness that a certain level of tolerance for a wide variety  of longstanding views about things is necessary to maintain a civil society, or even a personal relationship with old friends, s9 maybe the Supreme Court will prove just as wise.

— Bud Norman

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The Unfriendly Skies

This is being written in an affluent suburban community somewhere within the endless of sprawl of the Philadelphia metropolitan area, rather than at our usual humble heartland location, and this radical change of venue was accomplished through the miracle of modern aviation. Air travel is one of our least favorite modern miracles, and we don’t recommend it to anyone, but sometimes it cannot be avoided.
Our aversion to flying is partly a simple old-fashioned phobia – we are strictly terra firma people, and as the old joke goes the firma the ground the less terra we feel – but modernity has also done much to make the experience ever more unpleasant. There are all the annoyances of that have been diligently added by the Transportation Safety Administration, of course, but also a number of indignities resulting from the democratization of airline travel.
At this late date there is no use complaining about the politically correct but logically indefensible policies of the TSA, but the right to do is included in the high cost of a ticket and we will therefore avail ourselves of the opportunity. Just before the security checkpoint we noticed a large display of items that are not allowed on board an airliner, which ranged from a hand grenade to a normal-sized can of shaving cream, and although the prohibition on hand grenades seemed sensible enough we could not fathom what threat our container of Barbasol Beardbuster might pose to our fellow passengers. Nor could we see any reason why we should be required to remove our shoes before being allowed on the plane, as they are ordinary footwear of little destructive force. We recall that several years ago somebody had weaponized a pair of sneakers he wore onto a plane, quite ineffectively as it turned out, but we also recall from the grainy press photos that he was conspicuously deranged-looking and of one of the more terrorism-inclined ethnicities, so we see no reason that TSA agents shouldn’t be allowed some discretion in deciding whose sneakers warrant further investigation.
The passenger arbitrarily singled out for more intensive scrutiny was a petite 50-something woman who looked to be of Native American ancestry, so she could hardly be accused of being a damn foreigner, and there was nothing about her demeanor that aroused our suspicions. She endured the groping and fondling and untoward wand-wavings of the TSA agents with the same resigned stoicism that her fellow passengers displayed when partly disrobing at the checkpoint, and although this is the pragmatic response to such nonsense we hope that the traveling public will eventually grow more restive. Not on our flight, of course, as that would cause insufferable delays, but at some point when we are happily ensconced at home.
Those TSA agents have become more efficient in harassing the people they are charged to protect, at least, and in short course we were on board the plane and heading towards Denver. Even the most casual students of American geography will immediately note that the quickest route from Wichita, Kansas, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, does not go through Denver, Colorado, but such detours are the burden of flyers from mid-sized cities with few direct flights to anywhere. The itinerary required a long hike through the immense Denver airport to another boarding gate some 50 or 60 miles away, or so it seemed, and took us through what looked to be an upscale shopping mall teeming with downscale customers. Our idealized notions of airline travel were formed back when George Jones and Tammy Wynette were proudly singing “We’re Not the Jet Set” as proof of their proletarian bona fides, but these days the jet set apparently includes even George’s and Tammy’s most beer-bellied and under-dressed fans. Everyone was talking on cell phones and hauling the latest in wheeled luggage, with that very self-important look that people have when engaging in such formerly elite behaviors, but clearly the glamour has gone from air travel. The inside of our plane to Philadelphia could have easily been mistaken for a Greyhound bus to Tucumcari, New Mexico, during the Dust Bowl, and we think we might have even spotted a carry-on goat or two, so it should not be surprising that airplane have largely disappeared from popular song ever since Merle Haggard sang “Silver Wings” all those years ago.
Having taken the precaution of staying up very late prior to our early morning departure from Wichita, which was made all the earlier by the irrational demands of the TSA, we managed to snooze through most of the flying. After an even longer hike through the even larger Philadelphia airport we were greeted by our Okie parents who have somehow turned into big-city Pennsylvanians. We have since commenced a week of family reunion and thanksgiving, and expect it will be well worth the trouble. It might even yield a few interesting posts on this strange and vexing part of the world, but if not we’ll try to think of something else to say.

— Bud Norman