“Well cake tasting didn’t go as planned today,” Brandi Ray published to Facebook in late February 2019, attaching a screenshot of a text conversation she had with the owner of a bakery in Dickson County, Tennessee. The text read, “I truly wish you the best, but after realizing that your union will be of the same sex, I cannot with my spiritual conviction and beliefs do your cake.” Earlier that day Brandi and her bridesmaid had come into the store to pick out a cake for Brandi’s upcoming wedding to Michele Schmidt, her longtime partner. Brandi looked at a few of the design options, tasted some of the cakes, and decided on one. Throughout the tasting, Brandi and her bridesmaid discussed the wedding openly, referred to Michele with female pronouns, spoke about “brides” in the plural form, and after hiring the bakery to sell the cake, wrote out the names of the people getting married: Brandi and Michele.
The text message denying service to Brandi and Michele because of their sexual orientation came a few hours later. It came as a shock to Brandi, and as she dug deeper, she learned that the bakery had a history of discriminatory behavior. “They said they had denied more than one couple cakes,” Brandi said.
Brandi and Michele’s story, in some ways, has a happy ending: Their public sharing of their story provoked a flood of support from family, friends, the greater Tennessee community, and Southerners across the region. One famous Southerner in Nashville, Jay Qualls reached out to Brandi and Michele and offered to design their cake, at no cost. “This is so discriminatory. It has to stop. When you are serving the public, you have to be willing to serve all the public.”