Many of you know who Patrick Stewart is. He’s a British actor known for playing a wheelchair-bound, mind-melting professor, and the captain of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek the Next Generation. What most people don’t know is that he’s a Shakespearean actor and an avid gay rights supporter.
Recently, he has been in the news for backing a bakery in Northern Ireland that refused to write a pro-gay message on a cake. The reason Asher’s Bakery didn’t want to write “Support Gay Marriage” on the cake was that the owners found the message offensive; it was against their beliefs. (SOURCE)
What is shocking Stewart’s fans is that Stewart has always been an avid supporter for LBGTQ rights. One of his closest friends, Ian McKellen. You know McKellen, the guy who played Magneto, Dumbledore AND Gandalf; anyway, he is as gay as they come, and has used his celebrity to fight for equal rights for gays.
Has Stewart changed his mind? Has be betrayed his friend? If you listen to the internet, he has been both demonized by the left, and held to high esteem by the right. Many in the LGBTQ community feel betrayed. But they shouldn’t.
I have to agree with him on this one.
Think of it this way: A member of the KKK walks into a bakery owned by an African-American family and orders a cake with “White Power” written on it. Should they have the right to refuse? Of course they should! It is the same case as Asher’s Bakery in Ireland.
But isn’t that just the British version of the bakery in Indiana that refused to do business with gays? No. And here’s the difference:
To illustrate, let’s revisit our hypothetical bakery. Except this time, the KKK member wants “Happy Birthday Earl” written on the cake. Again, the baker refuses to sell the man a cake, or any thing else; the baker absolutely refuses to service the Klansman. This is inexcusable.
Equal rights is equal rights. It doesn’t matter who it is, in a free society, we have to tolerate unpopular ideas (including doing business with people who hold them) as long as we do not have to advocate for them. Selling a cake or catering a wedding to someone who’s ideas you disagree with is not detrimental to your own ideas and convictions. But actively advocating for opposing ideas (like putting slogans on a cake) IS detrimental to your own stance.
I’m all for equal rights, and at times we have to revisit the boundaries between what is acceptable, and what isn’t. Living in a democracy is a process, one that is never ending. That is part of the fun and the headache of freedom. But I think the boundary is clear on this one: You cannot refuse service because you disagree, but you cannot be forced to advocate for what you disagree with.