It turns out that divorce parties actually do exist. Oprah.com quotes Christine Gallagher, who notes that “Divorce is part of life, and yet it’s the only major event for which we have no ritual. A celebration communicates that divorce is OK—life-affirming, even.”
The article details the rise of various ceremonies that have been used to accompany the festivities: one British ceremony planner suggests a “symbolic action like the cutting of a cord.”
Several years ago, one man looking to celebrate the breaking of his vows came to the cake shop of none other than Jack Phillips, who we are defending before the U.S. Supreme Court. This man wanted Jack to custom design a traditional wedding cake, but cut in half—just as his marriage was being cut in half. Not wanting to convey this objectionable message through his artistic expression, Jack politely declined the order.
Given the fact that there are dozens of cake shops in the Denver area, it is highly likely that the situation easily resolved itself: the man found someone else who was willing to design the cake. Don’t want to design a cake that celebrates divorce? No problem, we’ll check with someone else.
But wait! Why wasn’t the Colorado Civil Rights Commission alerted to the discrimination? Because none had occurred. Marital status itself is a not a protected class in Jack’s home state, but even if it were he had not declined the cake because of the man’s marital status; rather, he declined because the cake expressed a message about marriage which he could not promote.
And this has always been Jack’s policy as a creative professional. He has similarly noted that if a groomsman asked Jack to design a bachelor party cake, he would likewise decline the order. It should go without saying that Jack has no animus or phobia of soon-to-be-married bachelors.
What All These Cakes Have In Common: Marriage
It’s actually a rather clunky, convoluted argument to insist that Jack just wants to discriminate against the LGBT community . . . and the divorced . . . and the bachelors, too!
There is a much simpler and straightforward explanation.
Rather than multiply discrimination accusations endlessly, it makes more sense to ask what all these situations have in common. Jack thinks that bachelor parties, divorce parties, and same-sex weddings are all events that fail to properly celebrate marriage.
Like all orthodox Christians, Jack knows that marriage is a holy institution bringing one man and one woman together for life. To Christians, marriage represents the union of Christ with his bride, the Church. The same Christ who died for his bride will not divorce her, but he will come again to receive her unto himself.
Complementarity of the sexes, holiness, and permanence. Unbelievers need not agree with such teaching to recognize that Jack has moral duties to honor marriage, given these beliefs. It follows that if Jack is forced to use his artistic talents to promote certain events, ones that are designed to communicate the goodness of divorce, or same-sex marriage for that matter, such expression violates the duties Jack has to his conscience.
Even though our culture may insist on unconditional affirmation, we cannot allow such sentiments to override our constitutional rights, which allow for freedom of expression as well as the freedom to refrain from expression.
After all, why should we force Jack to use his creative talents for the kind of event where it might be fitting to literally cut the cord?
What God has joined together, let not man separate.
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