In Schuylkill Haven, PA, recent events are playing themselves out again — this time, though, with a bit of a holy twist. Jennifer and Bethany Petrich are a lesbian couple that enjoy supporting local businesses. The couple were interested in celebrating the renewal of their wedding vows with a cake.
The couple were hoping to support local neighborhood cake store, Cake Pros, with their business. And at first, all seemed well.
“I loved the work they did and it tasted great. It’s a hometown bakery. I wanted to support my hometown,” Jennifer said in an interview with local news outlet WFMZ. “My mom, who is planning our wedding, called and made the appointment for us. It was okay at that time, and she was open and honest [about what the cake was for].”
Two weeks after successfully placing the order, though, Jennifer’s mother received an unexpected phone call. It turns out that Cake Pros identified as a Christian bakery, and in Jennifer’s retelling of the phone call, “the owner had talked to Jesus for two weeks” before ultimately deciding that it wasn’t in line with her faith to make the couple’s cake.
In Pennsylvania, a denial of service is legal — the state has a nondiscrimination law, but this law does not apply to LGBT people. The state has, so far, been slower than other Northeastern states to accept marriage equality legislation. This wasn’t the case last year in Colorado, where Masterpiece Cakeshop was told to either stop violating the law by discriminating against gay couples, or stop selling wedding cakes, period (as the bakery agreed to do).
“It was hard to do,” said Cake Pro’s owner, Lorraine Fleming, in an interview with WFMZ. “We have homosexuality in our family and it was a hard decision to make, but in the end, when I die, and I’m one-on-one with God, I have to stand true to him.” Not surprisingly, the company has faced some backlash on Facebook for their decision, though they have many supporters as well.
While the rights of businesses might seem controversial to some, anti-discrimination laws do exist for a reason. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, businesses could deny patrons service — an allowance that resulted in historic, legal segregation until the law’s passing.
Reluctance may be understandable as attitudes continue to slowly change, but Jennifer summarizes some of her exasperation with a single line: “We asked her to bake a cake, not marry us,” she said.
Some bakeries might dig in their feet about cake equality, but many are looking to fill the gap just as quickly. In an economy where expensive cake orders aren’t always guaranteed, Forbes estimates that gay marriages can potentially boost the wedding industry by $9.5 billion annually — and 72% of gay couples report specifically desiring vendors using LGBT inclusive language.