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People should be allowed to legally refuse doing work for gay weddings (flowers, cakes, etc.)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/29/2018 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 391 times Debate No: 114665
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (6)
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Freedom should be allowed for citizens except in cases where exercising their freedom would limit the freedom of others. Requiring florists, etc. to arrange flowers for gay weddings when doing so violates their beliefs restricts their freedom. Thus, these people should be allowed to refuse.

Disclaimer: I am not religious and my position does not originate from a religious belief. I simply believe the government shouldn't restrict people's freedom unless necessary for public safety, etc.


Happy to think with you today. I took a glance at some of your other arguments and am happy to say I think you're an honest debater and would be happy to debate you more if you enjoy how this goes.

There's a common misconception with people that the gay wedding flowers/cake scenarios are important to people in and of themselves. Largely, they are not. If the question up for debate was "Should people be allowed to refuse doing work for gay weddings?" I would completely agree with you. They certainly should, and most people do as well.

However the problem I have, and that others have as well, is that you have put "legal" into the mix. This makes it a much larger scenario. You're no longer asking about a specific situation. You're now asking a much broader question. Particularly because this was brought up in the Supreme Court, where the outcome will effect future decisions, and is made based somewhat off prior decisions. You're no longer saying "People should be allowed to refuse doing work for gay weddings." You're saying "Businesses should be legally allowed to discriminate against people based on their sexual preference." You have said you're leaving religion out of this personally, but I'll include a bit of argument against that specifically because the supreme court argument you're basing this question off of includes it, but I assure you my arguments will be towards you as well. A religious person could otherwise say "Businesses should be legally allowed to discriminate against people based on their sexual preference for religious reasons." In this though, it could easily be shortened to "discriminate against people." If they're allowed to discriminate against a group of people, no reason to limit it to just sexual preference.

Because Judges have to think this way, the fact that it is a specific case of a baker discriminating does not matter. Under a legal eye, one has to read it as it will apply to future law.

With those thoughts in mind, I take up my case against you.

Bakers cannot refuse doing work for gay couples for their wedding simply on the basis of them being gay. If we allowed this, there would have to be a government organization specifically dedicated to deciding which businesses could discriminate an which could not. No matter how well it goes, it will always be seen as arbitrary and railed against by all. Under this law, either all discrimination has to be allowed or none will be allowed.
Debate Round No. 1


To clarify, I don't believe that people should be allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation alone. So if a gay person wanted flowers for their home or to buy for their mother or some other reason, I don't think they should be able to discriminate. However, if the service being requested is for an event that is directly against that the florist's beliefs, then I think they should have the right to refuse, like in a gay wedding.

For another example to further clarify my point, I'll use the example of someone working for Uber Eats. Let's say the driver is vegan. I think that this driver should be allowed to refuse delivering meat to people. As this person sees eating meat as morally incorrect, I don't think they should be legally required to help someone to do something they find to be morally incorrect.

To some degree, this discussion gets to the heart of the issue of what is acceptable discrimination. We "discriminate" all the time as people. We do it with simple things, like choosing not to eat certain foods. We also do it with people, like when we choose who to be friends with or when we choose to end a friendship. Discriminating, at its core, is treating different things differently, and I think this should be allowed when it relates to facilitating others in taking actions you don't find to be morally acceptable.


1. "If the service being requested is for an event that is dirctly against the businessman's beliefs, they should have the right to refuse."

If I buy something from a business, why would I even need to inform them of the event involved? You're limiting the freedoms of the individual by having them necessarily lie whenever they want goods, for no public benefit. Besides, this is not how the gay wedding/florist situation is being used. They are using it to refuse all services at any time for any reason. They are using it purely as discrimination against gays.

Let's take blacks during segregation. There were black and white water fountains. [1] There were black entrances and white entrances. There were bars that were specifically non-black. The reason we've done away with these as a society is because they were discriminatory and causing our society to put Americans in second class citizenship for no reason.

Many people held strict "religious" views against blacks being allowed to use the same water fountains.

It's not always about how important one specific situation is. These situations become symbols for their community. Imagine full towns where people refuse all gays service. One has to hide being gay, or else lose all ability to live in a town.

What if one is raised in a gay hating town and becomes gay? Hide it or else? Move? Moving is not always a possibility. It takes money, and you lose all resources you had access to in your hometown.

Not only that, the owner of a business would only have to THINK the person is gay, or requesting their services for a "gay" reason and they would then be able to refuse them service. This could be used to deny people access to services based on their race, using the scapegoat of sexual orientation.

How do you make a law around discrimination based on race, but not make a law protecting sexual orientation? These are both protected classes in the united states. [2]

2. Vegan drivers being able to refuse to bring meat to clients.

If Uber Eats wants to have vegan specific drivers that's fine. They're not infringing upon a protected class for one. It is also entirely possible for Uber Eats to make vegan drivers invisible to all meat-consuming customers. They would not be denying the whole of their service for this.

There is a similarity in Muslim airplane attendants refusing to serve alcohol. That's fine as long as they made it clear with their employers before they were hired - as the vegan would need to do. If the cake maker had someone who would bake cakes for gays so that someone who didn't wish to do so would not, that is also fine. You wouldn't be denying them the service. The analogy you've chosen is weak at best.

3. "What is acceptable discrimination?"

In our society, people can discriminate as much as they want. These are the rights given to us by our Constitution. The repercussions you face from doing so are not protected against, but there are no legal repercussions for doing so.

A business is not a person. There is a clear tie between refusing a particular race service and refusing a particular sexual orientation service, particularly when it can be allowed simply if you THINK they're gay. It's an excessively arbitrary position.

Consider several scenarios:

3a. A black man with purple hair walks into a convenience store in the middle of nowhere, trying to buy a few snacks. Clerk at the convenience store denies him service based on his sexual orientation (Doesn't matter if it is true or not!). Turns out, that black man is a diabetic. He needed the snacks to get his blood glucose levels back to normal. He's in a particular bind. Lets say the gay man tells the clerk this. The clerk is not required to believe him. He can refuse service. You then have a driver on the road suffering from any number of terrible symptoms. [3] He gets in a wreck afterwards. The results are unimportant. Your position causes this. Do you think this scenario is particularly rare? Hundreds, or thousands like it?

Let's look at the reverse. A black man with purple hair walks into a convenience store in the middle of nowhere, trying to buy a few snacks. Clerk grits his teeth for a few seconds as the gay man makes his purchase. Turns out, he's a bit richer (or his company is) and he washes his hands afterwards. Maybe the gay man makes a funny joke and his opinion of gays changes just a sliver.

Which of these scenarios are more acceptable to you?

You have to weigh the "religious freedom" of people (which can be defined as literally anything. I can make up a new religious tenant on the drop of a hat to justify my discrimination) versus the freedom for others to plan trips or expect businesses to have their services available.

Let's say gas stations don't give gays gas. Let's say the only supermarket for miles denies service. You can see, with a bit of forethought, how these scenarios will give rise to immense pain and suffering, while the reverse facilitates an eventual understanding, and only requires a small amount of grit of teeth. Additionally, businesses can always refer people to other services that cater to them, or directly establish ties with someone who does and outsource the jobs to them. A private contractor can be used for all gay related business for things such as photography or floral needs. The consumer doesn't even need to be aware of it.

4. Another point, weak or strong as it may be, is that religious people are not enforcing these punishments on any other areas of their beliefs.

So Christians deny gays their service. Do they also do criminal background checks and deny those who have used drugs? Do they deny those who have committed adultery? (our president) For divorcing? For murder? For rape? Are they allowed to discriminate because the person worships an "idol" to them? Discrimination based on religion?

If they do not, they have arbitrarily picked one of their beliefs, and one not even supported by their full religious texts anywhere near as much as the others, to discriminate against gays. [4]

In effect, they are using their religion as an excuse for their hate, largely stemming from societal pressures, prejudice, their own discomfort and insecure sexuality.

We are in effect barely nicking the "religious freedom" (not really) of some, and guaranteeing that some can have access to services they may require to live or to not suffer. The weights on this scale are not even.

To wrap up:

I completely agree that insofar as we can we should allow people their religious freedoms, even if they simply use that as an excuse. People need to realize that businesses are not people and do not gain full access to those rights simply because there are people working inside the business. Facilitating hate is not in the Constitution. Protecting life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is. There's nothing stopping businesses from attempting to deter people from coming in and using their services. You can make your store "Christian Bakery" and most gays will probably steer clear. You can deter, but you cannot refuse service to those who need it. Allowing the gay baker to refuse service, legally, would be allowing the clerk to refuse service. Thus threatening the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for a large number of people, while doing minimal harm to another. No one stops the photographer from getting someone else to do the job under their company's name. No one stops the baker from bringing in someone else to bake the cake. No one stops the florist from calling in another florist. No one stops them from referring the people to other businesses.

Do we really want "anti-gay" towns to pop up across America, land of the free?

[2] -
[3] -
[4] - Can't use link because profanity. (lol!)
Debate Round No. 2


My reason for my side of the debate was sparked by a particular example. I came across an ad that featured a florist's experience. She had a frequent customer who she knew to be gay and they had a good relationship and she genuinely seemed to like him. He was aware of her religious beliefs. She had arranged flowers for him before and she had taken no issue with it. He came to her shop one day and requested flowers and specifically mentioned it was for his wedding to his then partner, now husband. She said she wouldn't arrange the flowers for this event and referred him to other florists. He seemed ok with this and left. Later, she learned she was being sued by the attorney general for discrimination. As you stated, it should be acceptable for her to just refer another florist. However, she lost this case. US law currently doesn't allow businesses to do what you suggest they should be able to do.

I'm not suggesting that businesses should be allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Similar to the example you gave concerning Muslims and alcohol, I simply believe people should be allowed to refuse to do things that violate their religious beliefs. I think that in the cases where it simply based on sexuality, that should be considered unlawful. However, when performing the service is directly related to their beliefs, as in the cases of the Muslim and the florist, I believe they should have the right to refuse.

I agree that people can use the law to justify hatred. However in some cases it used correctly. This is the purpose of the court system: to make decisions regarding the specific circumstances of each case. While we can both agree that segregated drinking fountains aren't acceptable, but a Muslim refusing to serve alcohol is, there is an area in between the two that isn't clearly defined. There is a point where religious freedom becomes hatred, and that point isn't obvious. From my view, this particular woman's actions in this particular case shouldn't be unlawful. In the example you gave of the cashier, I think they should be punished in the 1st scenario. These kinds of issues depend largely on the particular case. That's why I phrased the subject as "refuse doing work for gay weddings" not "refuse doing work for people due to them being gay (or because the customer might be gay)". It is my position that this florist's case is closer to the Muslim refusing to serve alcohol than it is to segregated drinking fountains.


I understand what you're saying.

As far as my 'referral' bit goes, I'm saying they refer them to another company, but if that is not accepted they must do the work.

Providing flowers for a gay wedding (selling them to them) is not any kind of active participation or endorsement of said marriage. As your own link says, it is not protected speech.

At most, providing flowers for a wedding is done during preparation. I've never seen a florist attend the actual wedding and spruce up the flowers here and there during the actual event. The photographer is a better example of what you're getting at here.

In the photographer's case, I don't think there's anything stopping that person from sending another person from their company. If it isn't an actual business and just a private citizen, that's another matter. It's not a service the public can expect from them. For a business it is, but a business can absolutely send whomever they want. In this case it's literally the same as my Muslim airplane attendant example, because they're still being serviced by the company in the end, and there is no issue. Ideally, it would be an invisible affair to the clients themselves.

So to conclude this bit, Businesses do not have freedom of speech per se, individuals do. If you operate a business you have a lot less leeway than most people seem to think, and could easily be in trouble legally for doing this sort of thing.

People have posters up that say things along the lines of "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." These are meaningless posters that carry no legal weight. [1]

I don't believe these two cases warrant an exemption from anti-discrimination law with all the ways around it already.

[1] -
Debate Round No. 3


With the example of photographer and the Muslim, the reason they would refuse is due to their perception that it is an endorsement. I wouldn't consider photography or delivering drinks to be endorsement, but that is not their perception. From my view if someone feels like they are doing something wrong by doing something, and not doing that thing doesn't bring harm to the other person, they should be allowed to refuse.

As to the argument concerning sending another employee, I believe the florist was her business and she was the only person working there. She couldn't then send another employee, so the closest thing was referring another service, which she did.

Regarding the rights of businesses, I think businesses should have these kinds of rights, while I am aware they do not. I think it would be acceptable for people to boycott her business or protest or criticize her, but I don't think her actions should merit legal ramifications. If it were a government entity acting in such a way, I would understand, as there is only one government. However there are multiple businesses and as such customers can go to other businesses and/or take the actions I mentioned above (boycott, etc).

This particular woman did all she could to help this customer while doing something she believes to be wrong. The customer could have gone to any of the businesses she referred him to, but instead the government was involved. I don't think this action or actions like it do the amount of harm that would merit government involvement.


Again, on a case by case basis I'd agree with you. The law cannot be like a willow in the wind though.

The vast majority of gay people would simply find another photographer or florist and not make a big deal about it, believe it or not. These examples we're discussing are the vast, vast minority of cases where gay people, for one reason or another, make a big deal about it and force the issue. Perhaps it's just for money from the legal system, which is unfortunate but that's all we can do.

Businesses absolutely should not have the freedoms of individuals. You would get cases like the example I've already used and far, far worse. I can imagine hundreds of scenarios. You can't give me one good outcome on your side besides that some minority of people wouldn't have to grit their teeth and do an unpleasant job.

I personally am an anti-theist. The line of work I do often has me working weddings for theists of all sorts. Birthday parties for all sorts. I grit my teeth and bear it. It tends to not be that hard. I promise I despise religion more than the vast majority of Christians despise gays, but I still have fun at these weddings. The vast majority of Christians are accepting of gays enough to where this is also not an issue.

If you allow one form of discrimination from one business you allow arguments for all of them. The case you use with the wedding photographer is the strongest possible case in your favor, and there are hundreds on the other side. You have to specify that it is a service provided directly to a gay event as well. The photographer, and maybe wedding venues are the only things I see that fall into these kind of direct categories. The law is almost never this specific. I've looked and can't find anything saying it's illegal to inform the customer that you have your views and that they may be served better looking elsewhere, referring to the other business, recruiting a private contractor specifically for gay events, and if none of those work gritting your teeth and bearing it yourself. Honestly the people effected by what you say has to be the vast, vast minority. Do you have any sources showing that this is some widespread epidemic in states where discrimination laws have been expanded to include sexual preference as a protected class? All I can find are a handful.

It should absolutely be allowed to refer the clients to someone else, to recruit a private contractor for the job, and to tell them that you would prefer to not take them as clients. If this is not the case I'd absolutely be with you on helping with it, but I absolutely don't see how it could be otherwise softened without it breaking. For society to function and not have anti-gay towns or anti-christian towns or anti-white towns et cetera, these laws cannot hold religious freedom of businesses over people's ability to expect services from businesses.

Religious freedom is put up against the civil rights of others. Civil rights should always win, but religious freedoms should be expanded as far as possible certainly.
Debate Round No. 4


To start, for these individuals it is much more than them having to "grit their teeth and do an unpleasant job". They believe that performing the service in this situation would be to betray the creator of the universe and the perfect being. Many of them believe all things to be equally wrong, so from their position it is on par with murder and all the rest (a position I don't share). You would be legally requiring them to violate their entire worldview and view of ethics. When weighing this result for the employee vs the customer going somewhere else, it seems apparent to me that the former is a worse result than the latter.

In addition, I never claimed it was an epidemic or even one of the top issues with the world. It was simply an example of what I saw as injustice.

I think there are middle grounds between our current legal situation and a non-functioning society. It seems hyberbolic to suggest if this woman had won the case then anti-gay towns would develop as a result. For example, businesses could advertise that they won't do certain types of events, similar to how hotels have smoking and non-smoking rooms or how some entire hotels are nonsmoking. This would no doubt hurt their business but that's my point: these business issues should be resolved in the world of business not the world of law.

While this depends on interpretation, I would argue that religious freedom is a civil right. The Bill of Rights cover civil rights and religious freedom is one of them. I couldn't find a source that specifically excluded religious rights from civil rights.

However, assuming they are separate, I think this debate and our disagreement ultimately comes down to a difference in value. I value the ability of individuals, as part of a business or otherwise, to refuse to do things they deem to be wrong, with the exception of cases of harm. The level of harm is a gray area, but this is another example of personal interpretation. You value people's right to expect service from businesses. I share this value, however, I value people's ability to legally refuse (in the cases I mentioned) over people's right to expect service. You do not. This could be the subject of another debate, but this seems to come down to a fundamental difference in value that one can't be argued out of, for both parties. We could no more talk each other out of these values than talk each other out of valuing justice, compassion, or truth.


I believe it is possible for me to convince you of this.

You have to again understand we're talking about law. Not a specific "should they be able to?"

In a one-off situation I would completely agree with you. The fact is though, when something like this is tried in our legal system, the 1 court decision effects how laws are passed everywhere within the state, or within the country depending on how far up it goes. Being that a similar situation is in the Supreme Court with a judgement expected next month, and that the topic for the debate speaks of the law, you HAVE to view this through a legal precedence lens. Like I said in the first post, you MUST read it not as a specific situation, but as a general situation. You have cherry picked the best possible example (with a bit of help from me) when you cite the Photographer for the wedding, but in a legal view it HAS to be seen as a general situation. That means that Businesses (not people) can discriminate against others.

We live in a world with thousands of religions. [1] We have to weigh a general well-treatment of civilians by businesses over the ability for any business to literally invent a religion on the spot just so they may deny service to whomever they please. You have not addressed this point. Perhaps I did not make it clear enough. If I did not, I completely apologize, and would hope you'd address it in a comment on this debate. Nothing stops people from inventing a religion or a religious belief on the spot. We have no way of proving in court that our irrational, unprovable faith-based beliefs are legitimate. Therefore, we can get away with any form of discrimination if this law passes. Possibly even if that results in the death of someone. Because what is the real death of a person when weighed against one's soul (even if there are thousands of religions and more than likely only one could be true)

The only religious exception I could possibly understand to a business being able to deny people service is if they submitted a document on record with the court listing their complete and total beliefs and who they would serve and whom they would not. Again, you're saying that they weigh all sin equally, but I see no cake makers, florists, and photographers discriminating against those who have killed, those who have committed adultery, those who worship other gods, et cetera. I said previously, there is no biblical reason to weigh the "sin" of being gay over any of the other sins, particularly those listed as "commandments" directly from Moses and literally to them the most direct word from God they've ever received (Christians) at least.

This is thinly, THINLY veiled discrimination for no reason other than hate. If you cite me one business who forces background checks on individuals to make sure they follow literally every belief they have before they will serve them, I would be mildly inclined to allow an exception, but....they can and will change their beliefs at the drop of a hat. Nothing stops them from doing so.

If you open the door to respect religious freedoms when it comes to discrimination against civilians you open the door for everyone. The world immediately becomes worse off for it. You at BEST risk all of that for a minority of a minority of a minority of a minority to not have a mildly bad day, and you already have my agreement that they should be allowed to inform their customers of their beliefs, refer them to another company, or even allow them to contract the work out under their company's name! They can even refuse all profits from the endeavor, or donate them to a pray-the-gay-away clinic of their choice.

You cannot find someone more moderate than I am on this decision. I understand the consequences of the action you have proposed. I have suggested a handful of ways to mitigate the damage nearly completely, if not 100%. I have agreed that if this was not a legal question I would completely agree with you. You have conceded that this effects a minuscule portion of the population and even that portion doesn't all believe they will go to hell over this. Most of them will pray to God and say they were forced, and to forgive them and they will completely forget the situation within a week.

Compare this to the hundreds of scenarios of people needing a service and not being able to get it when they need it, causing them suffering and potentially leading to the suffering or deaths of others.

Who is to say with this door opened a Christian clinic, hospital, ambulance, firefighter, police officer, et cetera could not deny their necessary services to those who need them or they will be injured and potentially die.

"Religious Freedom" is largely, and has largely in the past been used to justify terrible beliefs without any consistency or true belief on the part of those citing it.

I do not believe anyone who understands the ramifications of allowing "religious freedom" to run rampant across our country could possibly value them over the rights of the citizenry. In one society you have thousands of religions, with thousands of more being created on the drop of a hat being used to spread as much unchecked suffering as they'd like with an ironclad supreme-court approved excuse, in the other society you have a tiny handful of the population who have to suffer for a day, maybe a week, and maybe they'll glance back occasionally in disgust. Plus, the ways I've suggested to mitigate this.

I do not judge these scales to be even. It is a landslide on one side and a bag of potatoes on the other.

Now the judgement is up to you.

[1] -
Debate Round No. 5
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by whiteflame 3 months ago
>Reported vote: 17djones// Mod action: Removed<

2 points to Con (Sources). Reasons for voting decision: This was really hard to decide on. Both had great conduct, spelling, and arguments. It came down to sources. Even though both had reliable sources (Some sources were probably more reliable than others), I had to go with CON due to the fact that they had more sources than PRO. Other than that, great debate.

[*Reason for removal*] The voter is required to do more than vaguely state that one side had more reliable sources or had more sources in general. There must be some specific comparison of the sources provided by each side.
Posted by canis 3 months ago
You can refuse..No problem at all.... Its all legal.
Posted by Thoht 3 months ago
It is illegal in something like 20+ states at the moment. It's all whether or not sexual orientation is considered a protected class in the state which you live.

With the Supreme Court case, it is possible that this will be determined on a federal level. My guess is it'll go 5-4 with the decision to allow religious people to discriminate. Probably only because of the republican majority in the Supreme Court. It is possible that it'll go 5-4 the other way though.
Posted by canis 3 months ago
You can refuse..No problem at all.... Its all legal.
Posted by Thoht 3 months ago
I think the main difference between us would be how strictly I'm viewing this from a legal precedence perspective and examining possible (not guaranteed) futures because of it.

I'm glad you found it thought provoking. I certainly did as well. You helped me find a few ways to mitigate the problem, as from what I see it is a problem that can only be mitigated, not prevented.

I'll open up messages, if I can find the setting. It must come blocked by default.
Posted by AmericanNick 3 months ago
I believe I do understand your position, but disagree with it and I don't believe debate would resolve that. That could be because of confirmation bias, but I suspect we are simply interpreting information differently and have different values. If you would like to debate a another topic, I'd be open to it. Since you aren't currently accepting messages, we could either set it up here or you could simply set up a challenge. Either way, I enjoyed this debate and found it thought provoking. Thank you
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