A caterer in California refused to provide services for a gay couple’s wedding, citing her “Christian beliefs” as being at odds with the couple’s request. The couple is now examining the legality of the caterer’s refusal, which may step on anti-discrimination laws.
"Thank you for contacting me in regards to your upcoming wedding," Janet Zimmerman of Janet Zimmerman Catering wrote to Kama Kaina in an email forwarded to The Advocate. "I really appreciate that you were honest with me and gave me a heads up that this would be a same sex marriage. I hope that you will also appreciate when I am honest with you when I say that catering your wedding would comprise [sic] my Christian beliefs and I will be unable to accept this job. I am sure that you will be able to find someone who will better suit your needs."
The couple’s wedding venue in Big Bear recommended Zimmerman’s catering company. The caterer initially agreed to Kaina’s email request, but then emailed again several hours later to explain she could not fulfill her promise.
Now Kaina and his husband-to-be, Mathew Rivera, are examining the legality of Zimmerman’s refusal to serve them.
David Hakimfar, a California attorney and founding member of Pride Legal, said that Zimmerman may have been within her rights when she denied Kaina’s request, provided that her company was classified as a “service” rather than a “business” establishment, a distinction based on factors like whether it has physical facilities and the number of paid employees.
"It’s important to make a decision on what kind of business you have," said Hakimfar. "Because actually, there will be some times when you will be able to discriminate, and there’s nothing we can do about it. The law does make a distinction."
"[However,] you can’t ask someone to leave your business based upon their sexual orientation, because, even though that’s a private business, the law recognizes it more as a public accommodation."
Colorado cake baker Jack Phillips was recently ordered by a judge to serve same-sex couples or face penalties after he refused to craft a wedding cake for a gay couple. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on the couple's behalf.
Kaina said that while he was "completely shocked" by Zimmerman’s response, he and Rivera are not pursuing legal action.
"I do believe that everything happens for a reason," Kaina said, "and that we will find the right caterer for our day."