On February 17, two homosexual Latinos came to the business of Edie and David Delorme, who own Kern’s Bake Shop in Longview, Texas. When the two men asked for a cake to celebrate their same-sex wedding, Edie refused. However, Ben Valencia and Luis Marmolejo of Kilgore TX were given a list of businesses that would be able to fulfill their request.
The Delormes are devout Christians who operate their bakery in accordance with their beliefs. They have consistently refused to to bake cakes with alcohol, tobacco, gambling, or risqué themes. Edie told Fox News, “We don’t do cakes that might conflict with our spiritual convictions. It was not something personal against the two young men. We just need to be able to run our business in a way that honors God.” The bakery has been in business since 1918.
First Liberty Institute lawyer Michael Berry said, “She (Edie) said, ‘I’m sorry, but we don’t make same-sex wedding cakes, but here’s a list of other bakers in the area who would most likely be able to meet your needs. It was pretty civil. The gentleman said, ‘Okay’ and left.”
"They have, unfortunately, been receiving some threats," said Berry. "At first they appeared to be just kind of typical, nasty, distasteful messages that people were posting. But recently, there have been some physical threats, threats against their family and threats against their business."
When the story hit the local newspaper, a firestorm of controversy ensued when the Latino men accused the Delormes of discrimination. Death threats also came, including one that threatened to rape their son with a broken beer bottle. The Delormes were hassled, while vile posts appeared on their Facebook and Yelp accounts. They continue to receive threats, according to their legal counsel.
Edie said, “Our son got a call where they threatened to burn our house down and violate him with a broken beer bottle. That was probably the worst.” The couple also have an eight-year-old daughter.
According to Mike Berry, who serves as senior counsel for the First Liberty Institute, “Americans value and protect our freedoms – especially freedom of expression and religious liberty.” Berry added, “In order for America to remain free and prosperous, we must secure the rights of small business owners to operate their businesses according to their beliefs.”
Even though no lawsuit has ensued since the incident, the Delormes have retained the First Liberty Institute as their legal counsel.
“If these small business owners can come under attack for their faith, what does that say about our perspective on liberty?” asks Berry. “We need to respect the rights of all Americans to live together peaceably, even if they have a difference of opinion. That’s what freedom means.”
If the case goes to the Supreme Court, it will be one of the first to answer two new questions the United States now faces, according to Ken Klukowski, First Liberty Senior Counsel and Director of Strategic Affairs:
[I[f someone has sincerely held religious beliefs that are mainstream beliefs on an issue like marriage, can the government punish them for speaking those beliefs, and can the government order them, as [the Kleins have] been ordered to, that they can’t discuss aspects of their beliefs?”
In 2012, Jack Phillips -- the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop near Denver, Colorado -- was accused of illegal discrimination when he refused to bake a wedding cake for homosexuals David Mullins and Charlie Craig. In August 2015, an appeals court denied Philips' argument that forcing him to make cakes for homosexual marriage ceremonies violated his right to freedom of speech and his religious freedoms. Philips will face a fine if he refuses to bake another one of the cakes. He is also required to provide re-education of his employees in anti-discrimination law. He is also required to submit a quarterly compliance survey.
In Portland, Oregon, the owners of Sweet Cakes, Melissa and Aaron Klein, refused to bake a cake for two lesbians -- Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer -- in 2013. The Klein couple argued that baking a cake for the two women was a violation of their constitutionally-guaranteed rights. However, their argument was rejected and they were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages in July, 2015.
In 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a photographer who refused to take photographs of a same-sex couple's 2006 commitment ceremony violated the state's anti-discrimination law.