Skip to main content

Paula Deen invokes same-sex marriage ruling in lawsuit defense

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 6:48 PM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Law professor says the Prop 8 ruling is not relevant to the Deen case
  • A white woman can't sue for racial discrimination, Deen's lawyer argues
  • Deen's motion cites last week's Supreme Court ruling on California's Prop 8
  • The high court ruled private citizens had "no standing" to appeal same-sex ruling

(CNN) -- Celebrity chef Paula Deen hopes the Supreme Court's ruling allowing same-sex marriage to be legal in California will help in her defense against a racial discrimination lawsuit.

The woman alleging that she was subjected to a hostile work environment while working as an assistant manager at Deen's restaurants is white and therefore doesn't have the "standing," or legal right, to claim racial discrimination, according to a motion filed Monday by Deen's lawyer.

The high court rejected an appeal of California's Proposition 8 law last week on the grounds that the private parties behind the appeal did not have standing to defend the ballot measure barring gay and lesbian couples from state-sanctioned wedlock.

Even if the federal judge in Savannah, Georgia, accepts the argument and tosses the lawsuit, much damage has already been done to Deen's career and businesses by the public fallout from a deposition in which she acknowledged using the "N-word."

In the wake of the recent deposition in which Paula Deen admitted to using racially charged language, many sponsors and partners have re-evaluated their relationship with the embattled chef. Deen's 15th cookbook, "Paula Deen's New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up," was set to release in October 2013. The book shot to the top of Amazon's pre-order list, but has now been canceled by Ballantine Books. In the wake of the recent deposition in which Paula Deen admitted to using racially charged language, many sponsors and partners have re-evaluated their relationship with the embattled chef. Deen's 15th cookbook, "Paula Deen's New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up," was set to release in October 2013. The book shot to the top of Amazon's pre-order list, but has now been canceled by Ballantine Books.
Paula Deen's empire
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
>
>>
Photos: Paula Deen\'s empire Photos: Paula Deen's empire

Chat: Comfort food, uncomfortable topics

Asked by the lawyer taking the deposition if she had ever used the word, she said, "Yes, of course."

Paula Deen under fire for racial slurs
More companies ditch Paula Deen
Jimmy Carter's advice for Paula Deen

She said she had probably used the racial slur when talking to her husband about "when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head" -- an incident that took place 30 years ago.

Asked if she had used it since then, she said, "I'm sure I have, but it's been a very long time." She noted that circumstances have changed "since the '60s in the South."

Many of Deen's lucrative business relationships have crumbled in the wake of media coverage of the lawsuit. She has lost at least nine endorsements along with her Food Network cooking show, and publication of her eagerly anticipated cookbook has been canceled.

Deen attorney William Franklin's motion, filed Monday with the U.S. District Court in Savannah, cited the June 26 Supreme Court decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the California case.

"Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts made this observation: Article III of the Constitution confines the judicial power of federal courts to deciding actual 'Cases' or 'Controversies,'" the motion said. "One essential aspect of this requirement is that any person invoking the power of a federal court must demonstrate standing to do so. This requires the litigant to prove that he has suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct, and is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision."

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told CNN Tuesday the contention that the Prop 8 ruling is relevant to the Deen case won't hold water.

The concept of standing is hardly new, and the Supreme Court bringing it into the spotlight in Hollingsworth v. Perry doesn't not advance Deen's motion to dismiss the case, Turley said.

Deen's accuser: 'This has never been about the N-word'

Lisa Jackson, the plaintiff in the suit against Deen is white, has no standing because she couldn't have suffered "a personal and tangible harm" from hearing the "N-word" on the job, the Franklin's , motion says.

In the Prop 8 case, state officials refused to pursue an appeal when a federal judge struck down the same-sex marriage ban. Private citizens picked it up, ultimately to be told by the high court last week that they had no standing to do so.

Jackson is a former manager at Deen's restaurants in Savannah, Georgia. She is suing Deen and her brother, Bubba Hier, alleging they committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism that resulted in the end of her five-year employment at Deen's Lady & Sons and Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House eateries in Savannah.

She gave a statement to CNN's Don Lemon through her lawyer, Matthew Billips, on Monday.

"This lawsuit has never been about the N-word," she said. "It is to address Ms. Deen's patterns of disrespect and degradation of people that she deems to be inferior. I may be a white woman, but I could no longer tolerate her abuse of power as a business owner, nor her condonation of Mr. Hier's despicable behavior on a day-to-day basis. I am what I am, and I am a human being that cares about all races, and that is why I feel it is important to be the voice for those who are too afraid to use theirs."

Deen's lawyer has called the allegations false, and Deen has said she does not tolerate prejudice.

Deen made an emotional appearance on NBC's "Today Show" last week in which she called the accusations "horrible, horrible lies."

"I believe that every creature on this Earth, every one of God's creatures, was created equal," she said. "... I believe that everyone ought to be treated equal."

Deen was raised to never be unkind to anyone, she said.

Opinion: We use Deen to give ourselves a pass

CNN's Stephanie Genkin, Josh Levs, Caleb Silver and Melissa Gray contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
paula deen waving
Paula Deen is one of the best-known and highest paid food personalities in the world. She is also one of the most polarizing.
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Wed July 3, 2013
Celebrity chef Paula Deen denies she's ever told racial jokes, but she did acknowledge using the "N word," according to her deposition in a lawsuit.
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
The woman who filed a harassment lawsuit against Paula Deen said her suit "has never been about the N-word."
updated 7:17 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Are you tired of Paula Deen? I am. To be brutally honest, I was tired of her even before she was called out in public for conduct and language detrimental to African-Americans.
updated 3:12 PM EDT, Wed July 17, 2013
Click through our gallery to see the brands Paula Deen has been associated with over the years.
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
paula deen
Good conversations can happen when people gather together around a dinner table - and recent news has given us an awful lot to chew on.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue June 25, 2013
Celebrity chef Paula Deen's sons staunchly defended their mother Tuesday, saying allegations of racism are false "character assassination."
updated 3:46 PM EDT, Fri June 21, 2013
In a video posted on YouTube, celebrity chef Paula Deen apologizes for using a racial slur.
updated 10:49 AM EDT, Thu June 27, 2013
Celebrity chef Paula Deen, facing allegations of racism that have caused parts of her empire to crumble, slammed what she called "horrible, horrible lies" about her in an emotional, nationally televised interview.
updated 2:11 PM EDT, Sun June 30, 2013
Once a racist, always a racist? Will bigots always be bigots?
updated 2:10 PM EDT, Sun June 30, 2013
Former President Jimmy Carter said embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen should be forgiven, arguing that while there's no condoning the racial slurs she uttered, the well-known personality has been candid and apologetic.
updated 7:43 PM EDT, Fri June 21, 2013
Pastor Gregory Tyson Sr. defends Paula Deen after her admitted use of a racial slur affected her ties with Food Network.
updated 7:09 AM EDT, Tue June 25, 2013
Pamela Brown reports on the latest in the Paula Deen racial slur controversy.
updated 5:40 PM EDT, Thu June 27, 2013
Columnists Clarence Page & Clinton Yates discuss the Zimmerman trial, Paula Deen, and the Voting Rights Act ruling.
updated 11:46 AM EST, Tue January 7, 2014
Paula Deen microphone
More than a few have been caught saying things with the microphone turned on.
ADVERTISEMENT