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Tennessee bakery rejects lesbian couple due to ‘spiritual convictions’

Nick Duffy February 26, 2019
Stock photo of a wedding cake

Stock photo of a wedding cake

A Tennessee bakery turned away a lesbian couple due to the owner’s “spiritual convictions and beliefs.”

Brandi Ray, who is engaged to fiancée Michele Schmidt, had visited her local Burns, Tennessee cake shop Susie’s Sweets for a cake tasting with a bridesmaid ahead of her wedding.

The cake testing went well, until bakery owner Susie Dennison noticed the gender of the bride-to-be’s fiancée on the paperwork and decided she could not cater the wedding.

Tennessee bakery owner says ‘spiritual conviction’ prevents serving gay couples

In a text to Ray, Dennison wrote: “Brandi! I really enjoyed our time together and I truly wish you the best but after realising that your union will be of the same sex, I cannot with my spiritual conviction and beliefs, do your cake!

She added: “I want you to know in saying that, I do love you in The Lord!

“Had I known before you left, I would have said something then!”

Ray responded: “I’m sorry you feel that way. Have a good night.”

Tennessee bakery Susie's Sweets rejeted the order from a same-sex couple
Tennessee bakery Susie’s Sweets rejected the order from a same-sex couple (Susie’s Sweets)

The bride-to-be then shared the text exchange on Facebook, where it was shared widely locally.

The Tennessee bakery owner’s husband, Paul Dennison, confirmed the details to  Tennessee’s NewsChannel 5.

He explained that it is not the first time that the business has declined to make a cake for a same-sex couple, citing the family’s religious convictions.

It’s legal to discriminate against gay couples in Tennessee

It is unclear if any action can be taken against the Tennesee bakery, as there is no state-wide law banning discrimination against LGBT+ people in Tennessee, and no federal law on the issue.

Burns is just 30 miles from Nashville, where a city ordinance prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the law does not apply outside the city.

The Tennessee bakery’s actions have been attacked by LGBT+ rights campaigners.

ACLU of Tennessee representative Hedy Weinberg said: “Businesses open to the public can make decisions about what kinds of products or services they will provide—but they can’t pick and choose who they will serve.

“All people, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, should be treated fairly and equally under the law.

“When they walk into a business that’s open to the public, they should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against.

“Protecting people from discrimination is about treating others the way we want to be treated, and it is part of our constitution’s promise of equal treatment under the law for everyone.”

The case follows a spate of legal action on ‘freedom to discriminate’ legal cases in other states, challenging state laws that protect LGBT+ people from discrimination.

In 2018, the US Supreme Court sided with Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refuses to make cakes for LGBT+ customers.

An Oregon bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, is also waging a legal battle over a fine for discrimination against a same-sex couple.

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