An attorney who supports the baker in a landmark religious liberty case debated the issue this week.
The debate over Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colororado Civil Rights Commission was hosted by the National Constitution Center on Jan. 25.
Experts included Stephanie Barclay of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Colorado attorney Paula Greisen. She is representing homosexuals David Mullins and Charlie Craig, who began the 2012 case by filing a complaint against baker Jack Phillips after he refused to take their wedding cake order.
At issue is whether the State of Colorado can force Phillips to design a same-sex wedding cake even after he says doing so violates his religious beliefs and free speech rights.
"On their way home, Charlie started to cry," Griesen told the audience. "David got upset that Charlie was upset, and went home and put it on his Facebook page (saying), 'Can you believe this happened to us? We just wanted a cake.'"
"One thing that Justice Anthony Kennedy pointed out in oral arguments is that, 'Look, tolerance is important in our society but tolerance has to go both ways, and Colorado was not very tolerant of Jack and his beliefs,'" said Barclay.
After witnessing the December oral arguments, in fact, legal analysts have suggested that "swing vote" Justice Kennedy will be the deciding vote on the issue.
"This has become a very polarizing issue that, in fact, I believe is a very slippery slope once we start going down it," Griesen said later.
Her remarks resulted in a third member of the panel, Brendan O'Niell of Spiked Online, to suggest people should look at Europe if they want to see a slippery slope.
"If you want to see a slippery slope, have a look at what's happening in Britain in relation to the application of equality legislation to undermine people's freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of religion," said O'Niell. "Once you go down this route of allowing government to tell people they must prioritize equality in all instances above their own convictions," he warned, "then you open the floodgates to some pretty tyrannical behavior."
Jack Phillips is being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorneys have pointed out that Phillips told the two men he would sell them other products in his bakery but stressed that it was the same-sex marriage ceremony he opposed and so was refusing to be a part of it.
Phillips has said he has turned down other cake orders, too, including bawdy bachelor party cake designs as well as Halloween cakes with evil themes.