According to a judge in California, a baker may deny services to a same-sex couple on the basis of sincerely held beliefs, because cake designing is an artistic expression which extends to the freedom of speech and religion. Therefore, the right to discriminate remains intact.
I was thinking about this. I previously owned a photography business, and photography was for me a form of artistic expression. I did not have "pre-made" photos, like a bakery might have pre-made goods. Everything I did was an extension of my subjective artistry and my freedom of expression. If someone came to me for photos, I took them. Old, young, fat, skinny, ugly, beautiful, religious, not religious, you name it. You wanted a picture taken, I was your gal.
Now, what if I had the sincerely held belief that Christians were bad people, and that sincerely held belief prevented me from interacting with them or providing professional services to them. That sounds silly, doesn't it? Or what if I had the sincerely held belief that Jesus and the Christian god were abominations, and that their existence caused pain and suffering. What if I held Christians on the same ethical level as con-artists, thieves, and abusers? What if I felt that interacting with them was morally wrong, and it would cause me emotional pain and psychological damage to provide services to them?
What if I had one of those beliefs, and a Christian family came to me for their family portraits. I would deny them services, politely of course, and recommend they find someone who is like them to take their photos. And then I'd go online and say something snotty like, today I was accosted by some horrible Christians who thought they could get me to take their family photos. But I didn't do it, I stood my ground, and I am proud of myself for keeping my beliefs and having the courage to stand up for what is right.
Now, this probably would never happen, or if it did, hold any weight. Why? Because I am a minority. The predominant ideology in the United States is Christianity. If I, as an atheist woman, denied them services, sure they would feel prosecuted, make a big stink about it, find some way to take me to court and win. But ultimately, they would have immense support, a thousand other photographers to go to, and not be hurt in the slightest by me denying them services. That's what it happens when you are the majority, and your enjoy a disproportionate privilege over others. That is what Christians in this country enjoy.
And because of that privilege, they are able to be selective about their business, services, associations, etc. All in the name of religious freedom and "sincerely held religious beliefs". All other ideologies and beliefs take a backseat to Christianity.
Christians are under the impression that they are somehow being attacked, or persecuted, or that their rights are being infringed upon. But that's not actually the case. There is no secret "gay agenda". There is no pervasive "atheist agenda". But there is a call for equal opportunity and representation. Having a sincerely held belief shouldn't remove you from being human and interacting with those who are different from you. What they are has no bearing on your personally. Offering your professional services to someone who believes something different from you, even if you don't agree with it, does not impede your freedom of religious expression. What it does is make you a decent human being.
I despise Christian ideology. It makes me sick to my stomach, and anytime I hear about someone using it as a copout or an excuse to discriminate (and yes, when you are selective about those you will serve based on their race, sexual preference, gender, or religion, you are discriminating), I am deeply disturbed. It's just an excuse, it's just an excuse so that you don't have to interact with someone who makes you uncomfortable. And that discomfort stems from an ideology forged in ignorance and perpetuated by the same. But even though I do not like Christianity, I will still interact with Christians. I will still have conversations with them, shop with them, read with them, walk with them, and take their portraits. Why? Because they are people. Just people. And I do not have the right to hate them just because they are different from me.
Religion should not be used as an excuse to hate. If anything, it should be used as an opportunity to love and to show love and understanding. What could that bakery possibly have stood to lose by offering their services to a gay couple? More business? A fostering of understanding and respect? A public display of Christian charity?
Now, there are things that are disturbing that people believe in, sincerely. And if they cause harm, we should not condone them. But two people of the same biological sex falling in love and getting married does not cause anyone any harm. And a bruised religious ego or homophobic discomfort is not harm, its just ignorance. Like I said above, so long as the predominant ideology is Christianity, there will be a disproportionate privilege associated with it. Including the privilege of discrimination.