Klein recounts the exchange that took place on January 17th:
“My first question is what’s the wedding date. My next question is the bride and groom’s first names. The girl giggled a little bit and said ‘actually it’s two brides.'”
“Aaron [Klein] apologized to the women and told them he and his wife don’t do cakes for same-sex marriages. Klein said the women were disgusted and walked out.”
Sweet Cakes was served with a complaint of discrimination with the Oregon Attorney General on January 28th. As KATU reports, discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal in Oregon. Klein, however stands by his decision, and hopes that his right to act on a religious objection through his bakery will be upheld by the religious clause in the First Amendment, business be damned.
The puzzling thing is that Klein only refuses his confections to homosexuals when they solicit him for a wedding. As Klein told NBC, “I have no problem with them. I have customers that come in, almost on a weekly basis, that are homosexual. I have no problem–they can buy my stuff, I sell stuff, I talk to them–it’s fine”
Klein says, “they’re making a choice to do what their doing, I’m making a choice to not be a part of it,” trying to make a libertarian case for his choice to refuse service, but it requires little imagination to extend that logic uncomfortably far. So far that discrimination is the basis rather than a pitfall of the market, where the provider is as or more important as the product, and so on.
Some companies are already playing this game–not on a discriminatory basis, but through corporate activism. Chick-fil-a had record-breaking sales on their “Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day” which came shortly after (and likely due) to the CEO’s having come out as an opponent of gay-marriage, and although his and many companies for years have donated to organizations that oppose gay rights, his statement created a backlash. The day before Appreciation Day, the company released a statement saying, “We are a restaurant company focused on food, service and hospitality; our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.” Despite their claim, they are engaging in that debate and–to their profit or peril–are giving consumers an extra reason to or not to patronize there; some will go out of their way to eat there, and others will avoid it like the plague. It is a curious calculation for a company to make, but many are undoubtedly doing it.
It is perhaps less consequential than I give it credit for. After all, JC Penney came out in favor of gay-marriage in May 2012, appointing Ellen Degeneres as a spokesperson, and suffered no marked change in market value–at least no change that couldn’t be explained away a thousand different ways.
In order for corporate activism to have an effect, people have to know about it in the first place and most companies, understandably so, let their money do the talking. In a country so deeply divided, I imagine most do not have the luxury of limiting themselves to half the population.
In this case, I would argue that Gordon Gekko’s famous line, “Greed is good” actually applies, or at least it’s better than conservatives shopping at conservatives shops and liberals shopping at liberal shops. Markets should be as blind as justice, and unleashing the power of the free market is slow business when companies divert funds to ads and advocacy groups.
In the meantime, here are the companies that support gay marriage:
Gerber Baby Products
Proctor and Gamble
Walt Disney Company
A-1 Self Storage Company
Golfland Entertainment Centers
Manchester Grand Resorts
Request Foods (supplier for Campbell’s Soup)
Many (some included in the list) are less clear in their allegiances, lobbying for one, yet promoting fair and non-discriminatory practices in-store, or vice-versa.
You can follow Russell’s posts on his blog 22oftheday.blogspot.com, on Twitter @NeoKubrick, and on Facebook under Russell Winfrey or 22 of the Day.