The Oregon bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple faces about $150,000 in fines that apparently could bankrupt the owners.
Amidst the headline-making controversy, Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Oregon closed down and is now a home-based business.
The legal wrangling got started when owners Aaron and Melissa Klein, who are Christians, declined a repeat customer’s order for a same-sex wedding cake in February 2013 because they believe in traditional marriage. The same-sex couple filed a complaint under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In January 2014, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries determined that the Kleins illegally discriminated against the same-sex couple. The Kleins are due in court on October 7 before a state administrative law judge.
The Kleins, who have five children, claim that the government is violating their constitutionally protected right to religious freedom under the First Amendment.
Ace of Cakes TV star Duff Goldman wound up making the cake for the same-sex wedding ceremony for free.
At Friday’s Value Voters Summit in Washington D.C., Aaron Klein stated that “it’s never been about sexual orientation. It’s about marriage.” Klein also claimed that business was booming for Sweet Cakes by Melissa before this controversy erupted.
Added Klein: “What it came down to was, she (Melissa) has a God-given talent to create a work of art to celebrate a union between two people, and to use that in a manner that would be, you know, in the face of what the Bible says it should be, I just couldn’t in good conscience agree to do it.”
In 2004, Oregon voters amended the state’s constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. In May of this year, a federal judge ruled that the voter-approved amendment was unconstitutional, thereby opening the door to same-same marriage in Oregon.
Yesterday, Sweet Cakes By Melissa posted the following quote attributed to Rick Warren on its Facebook page:
“Our culture has accepted 2 huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. Second is that to love someone means that you must agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”
In May, Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver area that was ordered to bake a a cake for a same-sex ceremony decided to exit the wedding cake business (straight or gay) entirely. In a case that has a similar fact and legal pattern to the Sweet Cakes by Melissa matter, a state judge and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission found the bakery owned by a devout Christian cannot legally refuse service to a customer on the basis of sexual orientation. Despite the store owner’s religious objections, the owner’s policy violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, authorities concluded. The case is on appeal.
Setting aside your views on same-sex marriage for a moment, is it conceivable that finding another bakery in the area would have been a more effective way for a dissatisfied customer to obtain service rather than getting lawyers and judges involved? Should businesses ever have the right to abide by religious principles in the way they run their day-to-day operations or is that unacceptable when individual rights are implicated? To put it another way, should tolerance be a two-way street?
[top image via Shutterstock]