BERWICK, Pa. — A couple from Columbia County are looking forward to their big day, planning an intimate wedding with family and friends. Finding a cake for the celebration, proved more difficult than expected.
Berwick residents Desirie White and Jessica Dowd have decided to spend life together.
"We were just like, we want to get married," White said.
The couple got engaged in June, planning to get married September 9th. White went vegan five years ago after discovering a dairy allergy, so the couple started searching for a vegan wedding cake.
They contacted a bakery in Effort, not far from their wedding venue, to have the cake made. After speaking with the owner over the phone, they quickly reached an agreement.
"It felt like it was all coming together naturally," White said.
"We actually signed the contract and paid for it this past Sunday," Dowd said. "Tuesday, she reached out and emailed and said, 'I can't do it. I refunded your money.'"
Desirie shared an email she received from the business owner, saying, "I believe that the LGBTQ + community has the right to live as other civilians and be protected. Yet, my refusal to make your cake is based on my fidelity to the God of Scripture, and my religious beliefs are combined with my business practices."
A seemingly similar situation played out a few years ago when a Colorado baker refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing his religion. That case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, where the justices decided in favor of the baker.
While they know the business is within its rights, the couple still felt hurt by the decision, wishing the owner would have been upfront about her stance.
"I was just kicked in the gut," White said. "All these plans were set and together and then it felt like it was ripped away from us."
"She always knew that we introduced ourselves as partners and she knew both of our names, so that's kind of why we were so caught off guard," Dowd added.
The couple said the owner refunded the money and canceled the contract, leaving them a little more than a month to find a new cake.
"I just can't even imagine how that would make someone feel," said Rebecca Riley, owner of Peace, Love and Cupcakes in Syracuse, New York.
When Riley heard the couple's story, after it was shared dozens of times on social media, she stepped in to save the day. Reaching out to them online, she offered to bake and deliver a vegan wedding cake for free.
"When I had that first conversation with Desirie, she a was like 'are you serious?' I was like, 'yes,'" she said. "If there's any way to combat this is with an act of love and support and community. I don't want a penny from those girls."
Floored by Riley's generosity, the couple couldn't be more grateful.
"There's some people who are blood-related to me that wouldn't go as far as she has," White said.
"Out of something that happened that kind of hurt our community, a lot of love came out of it," Dowd added. "I mean it's only a cake, but a cake is sometimes one of the things that you remember. You eat that on your year anniversary, and you share that with your family and friends. That was important to us."
Newswatch 16 tried to contact the business owner over the course of two days through phone calls and emails, even attempting to make contact through a family member. We received no response.
With a new cake on the way, White and Dowd said they're even more excited to tie the knot early next month.
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