Here’s a lesson for companies who may think discrimination is a valid business model: Bigotry doesn’t pay.
After an Indianapolis bakery refused to bake a cake for a gay couple, the establishment became a lightning rode for the controversy surrounding the right of businesses to discriminate against customers based on sexual orientation.
The 111 Cakery was owned by Randy McGath and his wife, Trish, both devote Baptists. Early last year, the pair refused to make a cake for a customer when they learned that it was going to be served at a gay wedding. According to McGath, they “just didn’t want to be party to a commitment ceremony” because it was “a commitment to sin.” Making matters more bizarre, however, was the fact that the 111 Cakery sat smackdab in the middle of a historically gay section of Indianapolis, with at least three gay bars just down the street.
After news of the encounter spread on social media, people across the country called and messaged the bakery to express their outrage. However, as we’ve seen before, quickly there began to be a backlash to the backlash. Supporters of “traditional marriage” poured money into the bakery and for a time business thrived under the anti-gay stimulus package.
It wasn’t to last. By the end of 2014, Trish McGath was “taking a break from working” because the business was “wearing her out” and just a few months later Randy announced that the shop was closing completely. The couple insists that they aren’t closing due to declining sales, although admit the conservative bump they had received had long worn off.
For the McGath’s part, the couple told The Indianapolis Star that there was “zero hate” involved in the decision to decline service to a gay couple.
“We were just trying to be right with our God. I was able to speak to many homosexuals in the community and to speak our opinion and have a civil conversation. I’m still in touch with some.”
Sadly, The 111 Cakery is not the only bakery that has been in the news recently because of its terrible treatment of gay people. Another bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Oregon, faced a similar backlash when it declined to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Things are looking dire for that establishment as well. As my colleague Ryan Denson wrote earlier this year, Sweet Cakes by Melissa is now staring down a $150,000 fine for violating the state’s anti-Discrimination laws.
Of note, that is where Oregon and Indiana differ. The state of Oregon has taken steps to fill gaps in federal discrimination laws in order to include language covering sexual orientation and gender identity. Indiana? Not so much. While both states have now legalized same-sex marriage, Indiana has refused to ramp up protections for its gay citizens, allowing businesses to freely discriminate against them with little to no recourse for the victims.
As gay couples excitedly plan the weddings that were long forbidden for them, the issue is going to a head more and more frequently. For owners who may not be thrilled at the idea of gay marriage coming to their state, discrimination may feel like a minor victory. This may go a long way towards explaining why bakeries, of all places, seem to be a focal point in the fight for gay rights.
As Vox’s German Lopez wrote:
The bakery cases show the possible fallout of how society — and particularly private businesses — will deal with same-sex marriages as they’re allowed in more states. Some LGBT advocates expect these types of issues, from discrimination in the workplace to housing to public accommodations, to turn into the next major frontier for civil rights.
If this is the next battlefront for the gay rights movement, early showdowns are revealing that the bigots are already losing.
Feature image via WXIN-TV