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Same-sex couple denied cake by Longview bakery

By Glenn Evans
Feb. 24, 2016 at 12:15 a.m.

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A same-sex couple says they were saddened last week when a Longview bakery refused to bake their wedding cake, and the business owner said it would have offended her faith for the business to be linked to the event.

Ben Valencia and Luis Marmolejo still plan to wed March 27, and the couple said they will cut a wedding cake prepared by a local baker who read of their plight on Facebook.

"It just kind of makes you feel dehumanized," Valencia said Tuesday. "People shouldn't have to worry about going into a business, especially a public business that serves the public, and have to worry about being turned away for something, for who you are."

Valencia and Marmolejo, a Kilgore couple together the past two years, went to Kern's Bakery in Longview a week ago today with a photo of the cake they want.

"We just went in there to get a quote," Valencia said, adding that things seemed to be going fine throughout the process. "Then she says, 'Who's this for?' We looked at each other."

Edie Delorme, co-owner of Kern's with her husband, David, said she was up-front when the couple replied.

"And when they said it was them, I said, 'Sorry. We don't provide cakes for homosexual marriages,'" she said. "It's not against people or what they choose to be part of."

It's what they choose to make her business part of, she said.

"If I went to a baker, a homosexual baker, and they didn't want to provide a cake for an event that maybe celebrated marriage between a man and a woman, that would be OK for them to say, 'That's not in line with our values,'" Delorme said.

The baker credited the policy to her Christian faith, but she added there have been other instances when she has refused service for reasons other than sexual orientation.

"We don't do alcohol-related cakes or risque (ones)," she said. "We've turned down cake for, like, 'Can you make a giant Skoal can?' ... It's not that we single out one (reason)."

But Valencia said he sees this particular reason as arising from the customers' humanity.

"I wasn't really mad," he said. "I was more like saddened by it, because that is the first time anything like that has happened to me."

Delorme added that she and her husband have discussed how their faith butts heads with Jesus' admonition that second marriages are adultery if the first one ended for reasons other than faithlessness.

"We've talked about that," she said. "We would really have to do a lot of prying to find out. That's something David and I would have to talk about, whether that would be something that we should participate in or not."

She added that she has a gay nephew she loves, but would refuse a cake if he were to marry a man.

Like gay people nationwide, Marmolejo was heartened last summer when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriages.

"I was excited for people to be able to love whom they want to, to be with for the rest of their lives," he said. "I don't see how making a cake for somebody is going to compromise your beliefs. I know that there aren't laws that protect discrimination against people's sexual orientation. I think some employers have that in their employee handbook, but I don't think it's a law."

Delorme said the bakery would get out of the wedding cake business if a legal authority tried to compel her to make them for weddings involving same-sex couples.

However, the law could be moving the other direction in the Lone Star State.

The Texas Legislature last spring wrote a law allowing preachers to say no to officiating at gay weddings. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its June decision legalizing same-sex marriage that ministers cannot be forced to perform the weddings.

And a Texas Senate committee was discussing expanding that option beyond the clergy on the day Valencia and Marmolejo were being turned away.

Proponents of gay and lesbian rights call those proposals "license to discriminate" laws.

The panel's Republican chairwoman on the State Affairs Committee, Sen. Joan Huffman of Houston, said Tuesday she was grateful to panelists and members of the public who testified last week.

"There should never be an excuse for government to force individuals, organizations or businesses to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs," she said. "I look forward to working with other members to develop legislation that ensures sacred rights under the First Amendment are not violated."

The spokesman for Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston, the committee's vice chairman and highest-ranking Democrat, sent an email saying he was not able to reach Ellis for comment.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal indicated Monday that changes are coming to a bill allowing faith-based organizations to refuse service to gay couples without repercussion.

Supporters say it's intended to prevent religious adoption agencies, schools and other organizations from losing licenses, state grants, or other government benefits for their religious beliefs about same-sex marriage.

The state's business community continued to marshal opposition to the proposal, wary of the type of economic backlash Indiana experienced following 2015 passage of a broader "religious freedom" law.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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