Six years ago, I was asked to participate in the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) first ever Chefs for Equality event with my good friend and food writer David Hagedorn. Upon request, I instantly heard echoes of the strong remarks made by my mother, insisting to a parent of a classmate friend that she was to keep the three classmates (black) on the guest list for my 7th grade birthday party. Three other mothers (white) demanded and said “They would stop their daughters from attending if those three colored gals and coming!” In that moment, my mother instilled in me my everlasting acknowledgment and respect for all people, regardless of their differences, and the strength to never back down. Growing up in the heat of the South, I took a strong stance against the prejudices and inequalities I frequently witnessed and grew eager to advance the fight for human equality worldwide. So that decision six years ago was simple—an evening full of delectable foods, drinks, and music, spent with the capital region’s top chefs, all benefitting the battle I am most passionate about: human equality – I was in! And I have had the privilege to remain involved for the last six years, trying to make each year shine brighter than its previous and hoping that the political world would follow. Over the last six years, we have made immense progress alongside our government: legalizing same-sex marriage, adjusting the Military Equal Opportunity policy to include LGBTQ military members, and designating the first national monument to LGBTQ rights.
However, this year, it is as if we have taken two steps backwards. This year, the day before Chefs for Equality 2017, the Supreme Court will hear the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a lawsuit that began in 2012 after a cake artist in Lakewood, Colorado refused to design a wedding cake for a gay couple. This is not the America I know, a place of of amble freedom, self expression, opportunity, and love. This step backwards is reminiscent of an old America, one that existed in the 1960s with the horrific humiliation and discrimination of minority groups through separate facilities and the refusal of services. Is this the direction we are headed? Will America continue in this reverse path, eventually having separate lines for the bathroom labeled “Heterosexual,” “Homosexual?” Will we all have to drink from separate water fountains again? Who has to sit in the back of the bus? Well no! We can all be in the driving seat together and give the message that all deserve the respect to be treated equally.
The decision being made on September 18, 2017 is a statement, a powerful one that will govern human rights and set the course for self-expression moving forward. We all have a viable voice on the steps of the Supreme Court and it will be my honor to stand strong like my mother taught me and refuse to surrender. For this year’s Chefs for Equality event, the cakes will be in abundance, representing our strong stance against discrimination – and we can all have our cake! We will support the HRC and follow their passionate lead to raise the awareness and funds necessary to continue providing the message that we are, as we should be, unified as one.
I grew up catholic, I am catholic, I went to an all girls Catholic school, Academy of the Sacred Heart, and I have raised my children to be good Christians…and Catholic. And for me this religion has taught me that God has no judgment so it is not in our right to thereby ostracize, judge or condemn any individual on the basis of difference. Have faith in people for who they are and not what you think they should be!