A Lesbian Walked Into A Bridal Shop…

This story has been making the rounds, and I find it both disturbing and fascinating.  A woman by the name of Alix Genter was shopping for a wedding dress at a bridal store in New Jersey.  Ms. Genter found the right dress, but the owner of the shop refused to sell it to her after discovering that Ms. Genter is a lesbian who planned to marry her girlfriend in New York.  Her bizarre reasoning for refusing to sell the dress was that the marriage was “illegal” and she would not participate in an illegal action.

Ronnie Polaneczky of Philadelphia Daily News wrote a column (linked above) apologizing to gay people everywhere on behalf of straight people.  She interviewed Ms. Genter and the store’s owner Donna Saber (Ms. Saber refused to give her last name, but other news sources have printed it, proving yet again that privacy is a thing of the past in the Internet Age.)

As a rule, I try to be skeptical of discrimination claims because (a) it is up to the (allegedly) wronged party to prove, and (b) it is very easy to make a claim based on discrimination without actual discrimination ever having taken place.  In this case though, it is very clear that Ms. Saber discriminated against Ms. Genter.  She admitted as such to the Ms. Polaneczky (as a side note, as lovely as the sentiment may seem to be, apologizing to all gay people on behalf of all straight people is a touch condescending.)  Ms. Saber’s voicemail message for Ms. Genter, the one that describes her marriage as illegal, was posted online.  Ms. Saber, for her part, sees nothing wrong with what she did, and told Ms. Polaneczky that she sensed Ms. Genter’s father was disappointed that his daughter was not marrying a man.  (Although she is trying to reach Ms. Genter’s parents to smooth things over.  Notice which party was excluded.)  She also told Ms. Genter that it was a shame that a girl from a nice Jewish family was gay.  It’s incredible arrogance.

The backlash against Ms. Saber has been fairly universal.  Yelp, a site which allows customers to reviews businesses, now has (at the time of this writing) over 450 reviews for this store, the vast majority of them incredibly negative and posted solely because of this incident.  The reviews will be removed eventually; Yelp is a review site for customers only and has stated it will not let the reviews stand.  Probably that is for the best.

The damage is done though.  This story has blown up and has hit the blogs (major and minor), the local media, and the national news.  This incident is probably going to put Ms. Saber out of business one way or another.   In the past her store has been poorly reviewed, and customers cite her as their primary source of discontent.  The reason Ms. Saber’s store still exists seems to have less to do with her business savvy and more to do with the fact that her store filled a vacuum–there are just not that many bridal shops in her area.

A more impending threat though is the lawsuit that will inevitably rise.  Despite Ms. Saber’s contention that Ms. Genter’s marriage was illegal, it is actually Ms. Saber who violated the law.  New Jersey has a Law Against Discrimination, which, much like the federal Civil Rights Act, prevents discrimination in (among other areas) hiring, firing, public accommodation, housing, and business transactions.  Unlike the Civil Rights Act, the Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation (most famously from the Boy Scouts, although that was overturned by the Supreme Court.)  By refusing to sell a wedding dress to Ms. Genter, Ms. Saber committed an illegal act.

As noted by the Reuters article I linked to above, courts generally do not accept religious beliefs as an excuse for violating the Law Against Discrimination unless the discriminating party is a religious institution.  In this case however, religion would appear to be a red herring.  Ms. Saber did not actually use religion as an excuse.  In the Daily News column, Ms. Saber makes it clear that her refusal to sell a dress to Ms. Genter comes directly from personal rather than religious animosity toward gays and lesbians.  All this is a simple way of saying that should Ms. Genter pursue a lawsuit, she will win.  Easily.  (Conversely, had this happened in a state without protections based upon sexual orientation, then Ms. Genter would not have a case.)

Never let it be said that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  Ms. Saber is finding out that is simply untrue.

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3 responses to “A Lesbian Walked Into A Bridal Shop…

  1. Dear Writer:
    I am Donna Saber. The accusations Ms. Genter made were untrue. In actuality, Ms. Genter called me a Bigot, & told me she would not be purchasing her gown from us, as “we were bigots” Ms. Genter did not sue because her accusations were just that. Accusations.
    I have the right to free speech. Because someone for reasons unbeknownst to me wants to tell me what they do in bed, behind closed doors, does not force me to have the response to that disclosure they wish.
    Yours,
    Donna/Here Comes the Bride

    • Dear Ms. Saber,

      Thank you for responding; I appreciate you taking the time to tell your side of the story. I am a little confused by your post however, because in the first paragraph you seem to indicate that Ms. Genter fabricated her story while in the next you seem to confirm it. I will refrain from speculating about that at this time, but there are two things about your post that I believe need to be pointed out for future reference. The first is that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech is merely a prohibition on government action and not private actors. A boycott of your store resulting from any of your “free speech” may be unpleasant, but it is entirely legal. Second, if your “response to that disclosure that they wish” is a refusal to sell a woman a wedding dress because of her sexual orientation, then I feel that I need to tell you that you broke the law. New Jersey has a Law Against Discrimination that:

      [P]rohibits an owner, manager, or employee of any place that offers goods, services and facilities to the general public, such as a restaurant, hotel, doctor’s office, camp, or theater, from directly or indirectly denying or withholding any accommodation, service, benefit, or privilege to an individual because of that individual’s race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, sex, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or disability.”

      If you are interested, I would direct you to this site which describes the Law Against Discrimination (and from which I took the above quote).

      Again, thank you for writing to me. I hope that the above story was somehow a misunderstanding, and that as a savvy businesswoman you would not out-of-hand reject an entire clientele that has a very large annual disposable income, particularly as more and more states embrace marriage equality.

  2. By my reply, we did not refuse the sale, Ms. Genter told us SHE would not be purchasing from us, because SHE felt we were Bigots. I reacted to her calling me a Bigot for having a shocked reaction to a bright, beautiful, girl, choosing this.( I strongly believe we are imperfect creatures attempting to become better people throughout our lives). As a business person, I will not do business with someone who would call me threatening names.

    I received continued threats, stating things such as “they had a place for me in Hell”, until January 2012, when I woke in the middle of the night to find my home set ablaze. I had two seniors staying @ the home w/me & pets. The nice couple panicked & died in the fire. My best friend of 14 years came immediately over to give me a place to live.

    I have a strong belief in the L-rd. I love him with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my might.

    After about 1 week of non-stop harrassment by the militant portion of the gay community, Ms. Genter & I spoke. I told her I thought she was very nice, & she replied she liked me also. I do not know how to interpret, or to react to the house fire & loss of life. I suppose there are some very angry people in this world, & don’t dare cross them or else. Whoever set my house aflame, I’m sure has their own Hell to go thru. As for the victims, I miss them, their family misses them, Their family just said they would not argue with G-d’s will.

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