On January 18, 2013, Laurel Portman filed a complaint with the State of Oregon against the Gresham bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, on grounds of discrimination. In the complaint, Portman’s fiancee, Rachel Cryer, and her fiancee’s mother visited the bakery the day before to order a wedding cake for Portman and Cryer’s wedding; however, when one of the bakery owners, Aaron Klein, learned that the cake would be made for a same-sex wedding, he explained that the bakery would not be able to make the cake for them.
According to Oregonlive.com, in Portman’s complaint, Aaron Klein is accused of making remarks that reduced Cryer to tears and claimed that Klein called the couple “abominations unto the Lord.”
Klein denied making remarks belittling the couple or using the phrase “abominations unto the Lord,” and explained that he and his wife sell goods to all people; however, when specific requests are made for same-sex weddings, they decline since it violates the tenets of their faith. Klein and his wife, Melissa, acknowledged that requests had come in before from same-sex couples inquiring of cake orders for a same-sex wedding, which they also declined. The prior interactions were respectful with Melissa adding that in one of the responses, the couple thanked her for her honesty.
Since Portman filed the complaint, an investigation was launched along with a media frenzy, and on Friday, the Board of Labor and Industry (BOLI) determined that Sweet Cakes by Melissa violated the same-sex couple’s rights. It was a decision the Kleins and their legal representation were expecting. There will now be an attempt between both parties for conciliation; if left unresolved, the state could intervene and impose fines.
In the state of Oregon, “all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is 18 years of age or older.”
However, it appears the law itself discriminates against business owners when forcing them to accommodate an event that goes entirely against their faith. It is an example of state laws being set that effectively override the First Amendment. Faith is not something practiced on Sunday or only in a church; it is a daily pursuit which translates into all facets of life, including how business practices are conducted, as noted by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations.
Sweet Cakes by Melissa did not refuse to sell goods to the customers. According to other news reports, Portman and Cryer had reportedly been customers at the bakery in the past. The only difference was, this time, the couple were going to have a same-sex wedding ceremony – a ceremony that even the State of Oregon does not recognize; therefore, how can the private business owners be found in violation of ‘civil rights’ when the State of Oregon itself does not recognize these special rights for the gay and lesbian community?
Oregon Daily Independent contacted Sweet Cakes by Melissa on Saturday, who promptly directed us to their Facebook statement released after the state’s findings:
“To all of you that have been praying for Aaron and I, I want to say thank you. I know that your prayers are being heard. I feel such a peace with all of this that is going on. Even though there are days that are hard and times of struggle we still feel that the Lord is in this. It is His fight and our situation is in His hands. We received papers from BOLI yesterday and they have made their decision that we have apparently discriminated. From what we have gathered we now have to wait to find out what the fines will be within 60 days. I can’t say much more but will update when I’m able to. Please continue to pray for our family. God is great, amazing and all powerful. I know He has a plan.” – Sweet Cakes by Melissa
The Sweet Cakes website contains several Bible verses. Videos of the bakery (which has since closed and moved to the Klein’s home) show several items of faith, including a Bible on display in the shop. At what point did Cryer and Portman believe the bakery owners were going to entertain wedding cake preparations for a same-sex ceremony?
It should also prompt us all to ask if the intent of that particular visit was meant to challenge the Kleins. After all, a complaint was filed almost immediately. With a wide array of bakeries in the area, why not select another business rather than focus on retaliating against the one who refused?
Instead of using the state to effectively force a business, or even individuals, to agree with another party’s decisions or, in this case, lifestyle, perhaps simply taking your business elsewhere would suffice. There are plenty of bakeries in Portland and throughout the country that would accommodate the wedding cake arrangements for Cryer and Portman, but it was more important to make an example of the Klein’s and to make sure the family’s business suffered due to their faith and for having the courage to stand by it.
It remains to be seen what the conciliation outcome will be for all parties involved; however, the situation prompts the question of how far will one go to stand by their faith when man’s institution of government dictates otherwise.