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The Price of Citizenship?



“…The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may even pray to the same God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead…But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life…it is the price of citizenship.” Richard Bosson, New Mexico Supreme Court Justice.

This quote came from a 2013 New Mexico Supreme Court case. The Huguenins were photographers. A same sex couple asked them to take photos of their wedding ceremony. The Huguenins cited their Christian faith and declined the offer to take their wedding pictures. The Huguenins were then sued under New Mexico’s Human Rights Act. The Huguenins’ defense was that to take this couple’s photo would go against their Christian faith as it defines marriage. The lower court disagreed and the case was appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court. The New Mexico Supreme Court agreed with the lower court. The court’s reasoning was that when one enters into the business world you would need their thoughts and beliefs at the door of one’s home. It is the price of citizenship. A link to the post that I wrote regarding this matter is found here and here.

Recently, Marjorie Silva, a Colorado baker was sued under Colorado’s human right’s ordinance regarding the refusal to comply with the customer’s request. A link to Ms. Silva’s story is found here. However, this case has a twist. As the she explained, “…the man who visited last year wanted a Bible-shaped cake, which she agreed to make. Just as they were getting ready to complete the order, Silva said the man showed her a piece of paper with hateful words about gays that he wanted written on the cake. He also wanted the cake to have two men holding hands and an X on top of them…. She said she would make the cake, but declined to write his suggested messages on the cake, telling him she would give him icing and a pastry bag so he could write the words himself. {She} said the customer didn’t want that.”

This was in contrast to Jack Philips, another Colorado baker that was ordered to go into sensitivity training for refusing to bake a cake to a same sex couple because of his faith. An article regarding his situation is found here. Under the “price of citizenship” Ms. Silva, like the Huguenins and Mr. Philips, would have no choice but to finish her job by putting the words that she found to be offensive. However, the Colorado ACLU supports Ms. Silva’s refusal citing her free speech rights under the First Amendment. The same First Amendment that gives us the freedom to practice one’s faith, even if that faith is non-conforming to the dictates of society.

The Colorado legislature is reviewing its human rights amendment to avoid the problems that both Ms. Silva and Mr. Philips are going through. The true price of citizenship is voting, paying your taxes, being active in your community, and in some cases serving your country. Getting upset because someone said, “No.” in a commercial transaction is not the price of citizenship. The best way to deal with that no is to find another baker or photographer. It is a shame that our courts and the administrative agencies handling discrimination matters cannot understand this.

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