Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, has permanently closed. The owners of the popular Portland, Oregon, bakery contend they were simply acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. However, as Oregon law prevents discrimination based on sexual preference, they were ordered to pay the couple more than $130,000.
In January 2013, Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her mother attended the Portland Bridal Expo. in anticipation of Rachel’s upcoming wedding. During the event, they met Melissa Klein, who owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
The following week, Rachel and her mother made an appointment to try some wedding cake samples. However, when Melissa realized Rachel was marrying another woman, she refused to provide the couple with a wedding cake.
— Emily E. Smith (@emilyesmith) October 7, 2016
Although Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer ordered a cake from a different bakery and were married on June 27, the couple felt they were victims of discrimination.
As reported by Oregon Live, the women filed a complaint against Sweet Cakes by Melissa with the Bureau of Labor and Industries.
In June 2014, the Bureau of Labor and Industries determined Aaron and Melissa Klein unjustly discriminated against Rachel and Laurel due to their sexual orientation. One year later, Sweet Cakes by Melissa was ordered to pay the couple $135,000 in damages for causing emotional distress.
Although the Kleins paid the Bowman-Cryers the $135,000, they have expressed plans to appeal the Bureau of Labor and Industries’ decision.
The case drew national attention and sparked intense debate as to whether anti-discrimination laws should trump religious freedom.
Sweet Cakes by Melissa — Oregon bakery that refused lesbian wedding cake — shuts down https://t.co/TPlnGBw1I9
— Mic (@mic) October 4, 2016
The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa and their supporters believe private business owners should have a right to refuse services that are against their religious beliefs.
In an interview with MLive, Reverend Sandra Nikkel said it is a matter of religious freedom.
“… this is about religious freedom, not gay rights! If a baker refuses to make me a cake in the shape of a cross I take my business to another baker. Shaming, accusing, or discrediting the baker for refusing to bake my cake would expose a spirit/attitude of manipulation, pride, and control on my part–not a spirit/attitude that promotes love, peace, and equality.”
However, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer and their supporters disagree. Plymouth United Church of Christ Pastor Doug Van Doren said “individuals and groups need to be protected from overzealous religion.” In his opinion, “it is simple anarchy if everyone gets to decide whom they judge to be worthy of being served.”
Although Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer ultimately won their case against the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, the controversy is far from over. According to reports, the Bowman-Cryers and the Kleins were subjected brutal to harassment and threats amid the ongoing debate.
LGBTQ Nation reports Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer were forced to stop “leaving the house, opening messages, and picking up the phone.” Although the couple resorted to living in seclusion, they said it still feels like they are living in a battle zone with their families “caught in the middle.”
Fox News reports Sweet Cakes by Melissa owners Aaron and Melissa Klein were forced to close their baking business. According to reports, the storefront was closed several years ago. However, the couple continued taking orders online. They have now announced their business has completely closed.
It is unclear whether the couple will try to reopen their business at a later date, but their attorney said they simply could not tolerate the “unrelenting attacks from the LGBT community” — which included threats of bodily harm and even death.
[Featured Image By Iaroslav Neliubov/Shutterstock]