Officials, experts discuss legal rights for same sex couple denied cake by bakery

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Indianapolis, IN (March 14, 2014) — It started an online controversy. A gay couple was denied by a local bakery that refused to make them a cake for their commitment ceremony. The owner of 111 Cakery downtown said it was against their religious beliefs.

Some question the legality of the issue — who is in the right?

While some legal experts tell Fox 59 private businesses have rights to serve who they want, others said the case could be considered discrimination.

John Panico, a discrimination and wrongful termination attorney, said it’s not exactly black and white.

“For every attorney out there, there’s another opinion, so I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this controversy yet,” said Panico. “Most of us have ever walked into a restaurant and looked on the menu, you will see in very small letters: ‘right to refuse service.’ But is that right absolute? I think that’s going to be the question here.”

While Indiana has no state laws that protect Hoosiers based on sexual orientation, some argue the City of Indianapolis does.

According to Chapter 581 of the Revised Code, the Human Rights Ordinance “prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public accommodation on the basis of a person’s race, religious, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, or United States military service veteran status, or retaliation.”

111 Cakery maintained they have never denied anyone from coming through their doors based on who they are. They have, however, turned down folks ordering cakes for different themes or events that are against their faith.

“I think you’re entering a real fuzzy zone here,” said Panico. “Where do you draw the line?”

City County Councilor, Zach Adamson, said this case violates the ordinance. He also believes the law itself needs to be toughened.

“If you make wedding cakes but you can’t sell them to everybody — that’s discrimination,” he said. “There are no real teeth in the ordinance. It doesn’t really say, so now that you’ve violated the city’s human rights ordinance, now what? That’s the real question.”

If you feel like you’re a victim of discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Office of Equal Opportunity. For more information, click here.

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