Today oral arguments will take place at the Supreme Court in the incredibly consequential case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Catching up with the latest news about the Christian baker testifying to the truth about marriage, my heart leapt to discover I have nearly five hundred new friends – literally, amici, as in “Brief of 479 Creative Professionals as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner [Jack Phillips].”
The amici conclude their brief, “As with virtually every other petitioner who comes before this court Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop represents more than himself and his own dilemma in this cause. He is a proxy for others…”
In short: Je suis Jack.
I can’t really write anything new when billions of pixels have been spent on this case. However, I noticed that no musicians are individually profiled in the brief, so this is my story.
As an instrumentalist, I know that one need not use words to have a free speech case. Some melodies, of course, are associated with identifiable lyrics, but as Victor Hugo knew, the emotions evoked by music come from an even more primal depth than spoken language.
Wedding music in particular represents a significant time investment – at least if you want to do it properly. Weddings require a great deal of personal attention to your client’s preferences.
Sometimes three-quarters of the work was done before I even showed up to the venue. On the wedding day, one must be physically present and mentally hyper-present from start to finish, to celebrate and beautify and bless, to get it just right. No phoning it in, and no do-overs.
During the eight years of my freelance career, I played easily hundreds of gigs, most of which were weddings. One might think they would become one big white lacy blur, but no two weddings are ever exactly alike. I remember my clients distinctly years later.
I remember who was easy to please and who was demanding. I remember who I had to gently talk out of questionable musical decisions. I remember the triumphs; I remember the disasters. I remember the elegant and the rustic, the elaborate and the simple.
I remember the ministers and the wedding planners. I remember the day that was so windy, a topiary blew over and almost took out the ring-bearer. I remember the wedding with a surprise baptism at the end.
The best weddings were a real boost to faith, partaking in some small way in the awesome mystery of two becoming one and getting to say with the God of Genesis, “It is very good.”
Despite strong beliefs, I played with fire. I lived in a state that had redefined marriage and I didn’t have a formal policy. I’m lucky I never got sued. Granted it’s still a fair assumption that any given couple probably includes a bride and a groom, but if not, I could usually find a deft way to extricate myself without anyone being worse off.
One time, I couldn’t. I failed to communicate and realized my mistake a few days before the gig. I spent a full 24 hours sweating and praying about what to do. I sought trusted advice. I considered getting an “emergency” substitute. Faking an injury would be lying; could I actually injure myself, but not too badly?
Ultimately, I decided screwing everyone over because I didn’t do my job was not a good way to witness to a point. If I’m honest, there was probably some fear as well. You never know what someone’s going to do anymore.
An internet vigilante mob might threaten to burn your place of business down. I played, didn’t linger, split the pay among a couple of charities, and vowed to do better. I still feel bad about the whole situation, though.
I tell this confessional story (now that I’m out of the business) to underscore that it’s always easier to just bake the cake. Always. There’s enormous pressure to do so, and not all of it is external. Those who stand on principle, even when they would much rather avoid conflict with anyone, are taking the hard path.
Jack has been beautifully, simply, admirably consistent. Under the prevailing regime, it’s been terrifying to think what could happen to people who have given in even once.
I am not as brave as Jack, yet I am Jack. I’m counting on him. I encourage people with opposing views lurking about this site to support him, if for no other reason than because you are Jack too—or would be under the right circumstances.
Winds change direction, worlds turn upside-down, and suddenly you’re Sophie Theallet not dressing Melania Trump or the Rockettes not kicking for the inauguration.
You’re the woman who got fired for flipping off the President’s motorcade (not that I’d recommend it). I’ve had some nominally polite, but fruitless “dialogues” with people who said they get it, but really didn’t get it. The only way to get it is through the endangered art of putting oneself in another’s shoes.
Please join me in praying hard for the Court to render a just decision and say with me, “I am Jack.”