That Case About the Baker Who Refused to Make a Cake for a Gay Wedding? It's Not About the Cake.

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October 30, 2017

This is not about a cake.  It’s about licensing cradle to grave discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

With our friend-of-court brief, we are bringing the voices of LGBT people directly to the Supreme Court.  Our clients, and thousands of people who contact our legal help desk every year, have been shunned and denied service.

Lambda Legal and Family Equality Council reviewed more than 1,000 reports of discrimination in public accommodations.  LGBT people around the country told us stories of refusal by businesses large and small, at every stage of life. 

We heard from people who were denied service literally from birth to death:

  • In pregnancy: meeting a midwife for prenatal care and being turned away because “as a Christian woman…” or signing up for childbirth classes and being rejected because “the other couples in the class wouldn’t feel comfortable with a lesbian couple in the group.”
  • At death and in mourning: our client in Mississippi, who at the moment of his greatest loss, of his husband and partner of 40 years, had the funeral home refuse to care for his husband’s body, saying that “as a Christian” they would not serve gay people.

And everything in between:

  • Checking into a hotel: being asked “one bed or two” and then being laughed at, name-called, or turned away.
  • Changing your name on a post office box: being harassed and denied service because you are transgender. Imagine going to court to change a name you hate to a name you love, and then having the post office clerk laugh at you and refuse to change the name on your PO box? And worse, having her claim the reason she’s sneering at you is because she’s a Christian?
  • Tax preparers who won’t file a tax return for a married gay couple.

This discrimination is pervasive.  And it happens everywhere -- in southern states and northern ones, in big cities and small towns.

It isn’t limited to cake bakers and wedding photographers, and it happens in situations when we have no other options.  LGBT people are denied service by tow-truck operators at the side of the road, repairmen in our homes, homeless shelters in our time of greatest need.

And even our children are targeted. Children of LGBT parents are discriminated against literally from before they are born, and that discrimination continues throughout toddler years, school, and into adulthood. Parents tell us about pediatricians who refused to treat the child of a gay couple, and day care centers that won’t let them register.

Lambda Legal and Family Equality Council are proud to bring these voices directly to the Court, with our partners at National Center for Transgender Equality, The Trevor Project, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and nearly a dozen others. The Court must not legitimize and legalize the harm done to LGBT people and families so painfully illustrated by these stories by carving out an exception to anti-discrimination laws in the name of religion.