Until my own wedding five years ago, I had never recognized how many modern craftsmen and craftswomen considered themselves artistes. Our wedding photographer labored over angles, like a film director, to make the pictures a joint production of our day and her style. And even the wedding cake maker in our interview with her said she wanted to capture our “spirit” as a couple in her design. I reflected then that in a wealthy society even many people who make material things think they are ultimately are in the business of creating meaning, where they mix their expressiveness with their clients to make art in the workaday world.
Our expressive age provides the social context for the Masterpiece Cakeshop, in which a cake baker couple is challenging an antidiscrimination law that requires them to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. Mark Movsesian has written an excellent post, in which he is doubtful about the success of such claims because they run afoul of the egalitarianism of American society–a feature first noted by Alexis de Toqueville. But America is also dedicated to free expression. And just as egalitarianism has increased over time to embrace the equality of same-sex and traditional marriage, so has the breadth of expressive activity. Thus, the First Amendment question in Masterpiece Cakeshop sets up a clash of two powerful currents coursing through America–equality and expression. And to make the clash even more striking, Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote on the Court, is both the creator of constitutional rights for same-sex couples and the most stalwart defender of free speech.