California Caterer Refuses to Serve Gay Wedding, Cites ‘Christian Beliefs’

A Christian caterer in California has refused a gay couple’s request to service their upcoming marriage on the grounds that doing so would violate her religious beliefs. The Advocate reports:

Kaina_riveraOn November 26, Kama Kaina [left] contacted Janet Zimmerman Catering with a request to cater his wedding to his longtime partner, Mathew Rivera [right]. Zimmerman, who had been recommended by the couple's planned venue in Big Bear, Calif., initially agreed. But several hours later, she sent an email expressing a change of heart because of her "Christian beliefs."

"Thank you for contacting me in regards to your upcoming wedding," Zimmerman wrote to Kaina, according to 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 Advocate points out that although discrimination against LGBT people in public accommodations is a violation of California’s Civil Rights Act, her actions may still be legal because Zimmerman’s catering business operates online primarily via Facebook.

According to David Hakimfar, a West Hollywood attorney and founding member of Pride Legal, Zimmerman may have acted within her legal right to refuse services to the gay couple, particularly if a court classified her company as a service rather than as a business establishment. To determine this distinction, the court would consider several factors — including the number of paid employees and whether it has physical facilities — all of which are detailed within the legal case Harris vs. Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"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

Although Kaina says they were “completely shocked” by Zimmerman’s response, the couple has so far decided not to pursue legal action.

"I do believe that everything happens for a reason," Kaina said, "and that we will find the right caterer for our day."

Comments

  1. Alex Parrish says

    I would really like to know whether she refuses to cater for weddings of divorced persons or persons who are outside of her particular cult of Xtianity. If she does refuse those — then so be it — she should advertise her service only to her oarticular brand of cultists. If, OTOH she does cater to those weddings, she is exercising anti-gay animus and should be called-to-task for it.

  2. ben~andy says

    Ms. Zimmerman better have a “place of business” and that better be a certified kitchen facility, because if she’s cooking out of her home and serving it to people for pay, she’s violating the California Health Code and will be shut down and fined.

  3. shawnthesheep says

    One distinction, which I think is an important one, is that the caterer would be hired for the wedding reception, not the ceremony itself. A wedding reception is nothing more than a party. Does this caterer always know or even care what the reason is for every party she ever caters?

  4. One of the CA 36,000+ says

    Kudos to the engaged couple for being better human beings than that loathsome pig-woman Janet Zimmerman.

    I also put it to anyone whom she might hire to work her events: Now that you know what a hate-filled pudding of a person this Zimmerman pig-woman is, show her how you feel. DON’T WORK FOR HER. Let’s put the Xtianist b!tch out of business.

    Let’s get the word out. Let’s make it socially unacceptable to hire her for events in the Big Bear area. Let’s reduce her to serving turkey roll-ups and Jello molds at Nazarene funeral gatherings. LET’S BURY HER BUSINESS.

  5. Burt says

    It’s truly a shame that so many so-called “christians” don’t seem to have read the bible very carefully. I wonder if hiring gay service personnel also violates her religious beliefs? As with so many ‘christians’ she might learn a thing or two that would put the lie to what ‘pastor’ has taught in the sermons, and that would throw her into even more turmoil.

    Bottom line, why would you want a caterer who didn’t want to cater your affair? Better to find out now before planning got really involved than the day prior to the wedding..

  6. Azgaard says

    The best way to handle this is to have every gay couple go to these companies for services. When they are turning people down left and right, only then will they know how damaging their beliefs are to their bottom line.

    No complaints, no boycotts, just a lot of math showing how bigotry does not add up.

  7. oncemorewithfeeling says

    And again with the “boycotts don’t work” trolls, decades after Rosa Parks. Brilliant. Who taught you history?

    This woman will pay for her bigotry one way or another. If she’s this outrageously stupid, it’s very unlikely she’s not violating at least some laws, as speculated above. If she can’t be trusted to run her business legally or ethically, who knows if her food is even safe to eat?

    The trolls who think anti-gay bigotry in business should go unpunished are not only idiots who are anti-gay, they’re also fundamentally anti-American. Those trolls sure do hate a lot of people. No wonder they side with the bigots.

  8. says

    I’m sure these boys can find a gayterer in California that would be happy to serve them and make their occasion wonderful. If fact, that should be a search listing on its own for all SS wedding planners.

  9. Frank says

    God is big, as my grandfather used to say. This baker who hates gay marriage so much will wind up in one faster than you can say “Brokeback Mountain.”

  10. MikeRs says

    Why do the bigots have to TELL you that they’re bigots? What kind of idiot businessperson is this? All she had to do was say “I’m sorry, I’m unable to fulfill your request – best of luck.” She doesn’t deserve to be successful on grounds of idiocy.

  11. Alex Parrish says

    @Kian — YOU are the problem here… Your ignorance about the cost of discrimination is an embarrassment to all who read it. I just get infuriated at idiots who think all the hard work we did for decades to gain a measure of equality was to insure that bigots get to continue to discriminate indiscriminately. STFU, troll!

  12. SpaceCadet says

    Just find another caterer? No big deal? Maybe once you are refused service because you’re gay or perceived to be gay then you’ll find it a big deal.

  13. Jeffrey says

    I think she did these guys a favor. Why should they employ a caterer who’s a bigot when there will undoubtedly be other better options. I doubt we can always legislate to keep businesses from being small-minded but we can definitely choose not to use their services and find folks that are more than happy to work with us!

  14. says

    Big Bear is a pretty small town. Why would the venue recommend a caterer who’s not down for a same-sex wedding? Seems strange to me.

    I believe in the power of boycotts but when it’s against a small business it feels more like bullying. I’m sure she took her facebook page down because it started to fill up with vile hate-filled messages calling her a bigot. Not exactly the way to win friends and influence people.

    I agree with AZGAARD, best way to handle it is to have more and more same-sex couples request her services. Make her say No again and again and again…especially to lavish big-budget affairs. I bet anything she’d begin to change her views.

  15. MARCUS BACHMANN says

    “Although Kaina says they were “completely shocked” by Zimmerman’s response, the couple has so far decided not to pursue legal action.” Pathetic.

  16. Bill says

    @ben~andy: she doesn’t have to have a certified kitchen as she can subcontract to a person who does and simply carry the food to the event.

    BTW, Big Bear is a small town with a population of about 12000. It wouldn’t surprise me if she has a deal with a restaurant to prepare the food and put it in appropriate containers for her to carry it to some event, returning the containers to the restaurant afterwards.

    @unruly: not all violations of state law are criminal. That won’t stop the DA from prosecuting, but rather that they won’t send her to jail for a non-criminal offense.

  17. Paul R says

    I’d be relieved. I wouldn’t want to eat food from someone who hates me. Not pursuing an intense legal case as your marriage approaches makes sense, emotionally and financially. They got her publicly tarred, she’ll lose work, and they can have a wedding and lives using another caterer.

    Wanting to give money to someone who hates you would be the nastier option, so the notion of having this woman bombarded by gay couples in this tiny town is stupid. I don’t give money to people I hate or who hate me.

  18. PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS says

    Interesting because if all the “good christians” ever followed all the inane dictates in the bible her business would be out of business long ago…..

    Virtually every catering hall relies on teens as staff. As any “good christian” should know the bible dictates that if your teen talks back to you, they should be taken into the public square an put to death for such an egrious offense……….

    These abhorrent noxious bigots cherry pick obscure passages written centuries ago penned by probably twisted closet cases to justify their hatred and bigotry……….

  19. Blake says

    I don’t understand why people like this admit to the reason they don’t want to cater the wedding?!? If I were in her situation, and truly felt that catering this wedding somehow contradicted my morals, I would apologize and tell the couple I was already booked for that day and suggest another local caterer. Why set yourself up to be shredded like this? There are plenty of ways to hide your bigotry. ha.

  20. Ben in Oakland says

    Don’t sue. Publicize. If she advertises in wedding publications, write to them and let them know. Yelp her to death.

    It isn’t egregious enough to wreck your life over, and that’s what a lawsuit would do. Just publicize her until the fair minded decent brides and grooms, the companies that support gay people, all just say “we don’t need Janet Zimmerman..”

  21. Jim says

    Somebody was pestering composer Camille Saint-Saens, trying to invite him to a party where no doubt he would be prevailed upon to entertain the guests free of charge. He kept refusing each proposed date by claiming a prior engagement. Finally the person suggested a date 6 months in advance which Saint-Saens refused because as he said “I’ll be attending a funeral that day.” Bigots could save themselves a lot of bad publicity and maybe court time by simply saying, “Sorry, I can’t fit you into my schedule then.” And they can always do a Saint-Saens–I’ll be at a funeral that day. Nobody can sue you for a tight schedule and you can always drop by somebody’s funeral if you really need legal cover. Why can’t bigots use their brains? Don’t they have any?

  22. tinkerbelle says

    Nobody mentions how ravishingly cute the couple is…

    Bigot or not, this woman simply does not have manners. I agree with those posters who thought she should have simply made an excuse, rather than laying her (non-founded in the bible) christoniarian beliefs on the platter, so to speak. I also agree that if I were the couple in question, I would rather not, even unknowingly, increase the wealth of a hater — better to know and give good money to a gay-friendly organization that deserves it.

    As time goes on and things change for the better, people like this woman will find themselves sorely lacking for customers. There will be their punishment…

  23. Enchantra says

    I respect her right to Freedom Of Association, even if I don’t respect her reason for exercising it.

    Find another caterer. And frankly, what sane gay man would hire this woman to do his wedding?

  24. EchtKultig says

    What are Christians doing in California?

    Posted by: Jack M | Jan 13, 2014 12:45:41 PM

    Actually once you get outside of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and a few resort places like Palm Springs, California is pretty right wing. It ain’t rural Vermont.

    Of course, like 95% of Americans who identify as (serious, in their minds) Christians, she isn’t one.

  25. says

    Since they contacted the caterer due to their venue’s recommendation, their venue should rethink who they are recommending if they want to keep and build on their gay clientele. Good opportunity to pressure them. If the catering business isn’t classified as a public accommodation, there are still ways to alert the public and save others from the hassle–the couple is doing the right thing by speaking out instead of staying silent.

    @ECHTKULTIG: An inn in rural VT tried to host weddings exclusively for straight couples, citing their faith. They were fined $30,000 and are no longer allowed to host any weddings. The price of their bigotry.

  26. JJ says

    @Kian, @Esa, @Jeffrey, et.al., who say just find another caterer:

    I’m not an economist, but I think simply finding friendly businesses and working around discrimination without enforcing anti-discrimination laws will drive up the cost of services for gay couples. Gay couples will be drawing on a smaller supply of services than other couples, which means they’ll be paying more. Avoiding these businesses isn’t going to be a win-win. They need to be corrected or removed from the market to make room for non-discriminatory businesses.

  27. Bob says

    IF THEY DECLINE POLITELY, I would just be sorry and move on.

    If they intimate that they are a Christian and you are not, because you do Gay stuff, I would cause a huge fuss.

  28. Bob says

    MEANT TO WRITE — I would be sorry FOR THEM if they decline politely, and move on.

    People who think the couple should go on a crusade to punish the stupid woman, rather than focusing on their wedding, go way too far

  29. Bill says

    @JJ: keep in mind too that the costs are not just what the businesses charge, but the wasted time in finding one that does provide services to gays, plus in some cases extra travel time and expenses due to having to make longer trips to find such a business. All those hassles make people less productive, which results in lower tax revenue for the government than it would otherwise get, which translates into higher taxes for everyone.

    Run that one by some conservatives and see what they say.

  30. Gordon says

    It has taken decades to get accepted, I didn’t even know there was an anti-disco lobby in the 70’s that probably did get it’s arse kicked but it did take decades to overturn law – why has everyone since 1986 turned on only very few media celbrigays to expect rights to be as fck’d in a marriage as straight people – there are no celebrigays these days for (admittedly) gay rights because we’re all bi.

    People suffered, not just through a generation of loss, but a generation of truthful loss that if they’d been here I don’t think they’d celebrate.

    Am talking general public rather than hollywads.

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