Patrick Stewart and the Right to Decline, NOT Discriminate


I can’t remember the last time I publicly agreed with a celebrity. It’s never been something that I do; celebrities generally know less about important topics than scholars or journalists whose opinion I respect. Often times, they know less about them, particularly when it comes to topics that affect the general population rather than the insulated worlds of the rich and famous.

That’s only one of the reasons that this article is a divergence from the norm. The other strange aspect is that I’m going to agree with a celebrity whose opinions are normally different from my own. That celebrity is Patrick Stewart and the opinion regards gay wedding messages on cakes.

I know what you’re thinking. This is a completely over-discussed topic. Every blogger seems to have an opinion and they all seem to be displaying them at the same time. In this case, the perspective is in strange concordance. I’m pleased to say that my opinion is mirrored perfectly by Stewart who is coming from the opposite perspective.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation and X-Men star recently supported the rights of a bakery who was fined for not making a cake with the words “support gay marriage” on it. What makes this extraordinary is that Stewart supports gay marriage and I do not, but we meet in the middle when it comes to how those stances should be addressed. He believes that marriage equality should be the law of the land but that businesses should not be forced to comply when something goes against their personal beliefs. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman but I do not support having the government decree whether it’s allowed or not. In essence, the “butt out of it” perspective is what we’re both supporting.

“Both equality and freedom of speech are fundamental rights – and this case underscores how we need to ensure one isn’t compromised in the pursuit of the other,” Stewart said.

Personally, I do not support gay marriage from a legal perspective. To me, it should be up to the individual cities, counties, clerks, and churches whether or not they want to perform gay marriages and it should be up to the state whether or not they want to recognize them. I believe that if a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman want to have legal rights that enter into what is being called marriage today, so be it. Hospital visitation, cohabitation, wills, paid leave… if two people want to have rights that married couples enjoy, they should have those rights.

That’s the legal perspective. The moral and Biblical perspectives are different, but that’s for a different article.

The problem that we’re facing today is that everything is being called discrimination. If you don’t support gay marriage you are a bigot by today’s standards and that’s simply not the case. Are there bigots? Of course! Is there discrimination? Absolutely! Those facts do not dismiss the opinion that just because someone is against gay marriage that they are bigots.

Back to the cake issue. If someone wanted a bakery to make a cake that had the message, “support smoking cigarettes,” there are plenty out there who would not want to put out that message. Smoking is legal (in most places) and many good people smoke. Does that mean that a bakery should be fined or persecuted if they don’t agree with the messaging and they choose not to do it?

Before you come up with a clever answer, I’ll go ahead and say that the answer is no. If someone doesn’t want to promote a message that they disagree with for whatever reason they disagree with it, that’s their right. Let’s use an example that explores the irony of the political spectrum pervading this concept today…

If someone went to a bakery and asked them to put a message that reads, “support heterosexual marriage,” and the bakery chose not to do it, here’s what would happen. Some conservative groups would probably get mad and sue. During the course of the trial, it would be determined that the messaging of “support heterosexual marriage” would be tantamount to “deny gay marriage” and therefore the bakery would have the right to deny that messaging. Then, the people who were wanting the cake in the first place as well as the organizations that supported them would condemned as discriminating bigots.

Patrick Stewart adamantly supports LGBT rights. I support marriage as being between a man and a woman. We find common ground in the fact that regardless of your personal opinions, individuals and businesses should not be forced to participate in anything that goes against their personal beliefs. It’s ironic that people on both sides have taken the absolute stance of “if you’re not for us, you’re against us.” It doesn’t have to be like that.

In the end, Stewart is promoting a message of the right to decline versus the label of discrimination. Just because he supports marriage equality doesn’t mean that he has to be opposed to other freedoms.