There is a good-news update to a story we reported last January.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry has found the owners of Sweet Cakes By Melissa likely broke the law when they refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The owners and the couple will now begin a settlement process. If a settlement is not reached, the owners could face charges.
Last January, Aaron and Melissa Klein, who own Sweet Cakes By Melissa in Gresham Oregon, scored a perfect ten on the homophobia scale when they refused to bake a cake for the wedding of Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman (image, below).
Aaron Klein told FOX News, (as if this made all the sense in the world) that he had nothing against gays, he just couldn’t participate in a lesbian wedding due to his religious beliefs. (Well, then you DO have something against gays Aaron, your chosen religion.)
Fortunately, Oregon has a 2007 non-discrimination law, (I hate these hyphenated titles, we should really start calling them equality laws, or fairness laws) which allowed Laurel and Rachel to file a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. In August, Commissioner Brad Avakian announced that the Kleins were under investigation for illegal discrimination due to sexual orientation. (It would seem to me a very short investigation would be required, since the couple is happy to confess their crime on Facebook, and to every FOX News and Christian-centric reporter who puts on a sympathetic face and encourages their bigotry.)
Said Commissioner Avakian:
“Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that folks have the right to discriminate,” he told the newspaper. “The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon.”
But the Oregon LGBT community didn’t wait for the government to give the Kleins, (right) a learning experience; they acted. Local groups not only boycotted the bakery, they reached out to wedding-related businesses like wedding planners and banquet halls in the area, and let the owners know they would extend their boycott to anyone doing business with Sweet Melissa. They did the same for the bakery’s vendors.
The Oregon protest worked. The power of the purse, combined with publicity and the threat that brings with it, has wonderful powers of motivation for business owners who don’t want to be known as anti-equality. The LGBT community should remember the tactics used against Melissa’s Sweet Cakes when faced with the many other acts of blatant discrimination that are sure to throw up roadblocks as LGBT equality bumps along in fits and starts across America.
In September, FOX News reported that Sweet Cakes By Melissa closed its doors. Melissa Klein has been baking from her kitchen for the customers she has left ever since. Melissa said in September they lost 50% of their business, but instead of learning from the experience, as the Labor Board hoped, Aaron Klein, who took another job, still sang from the “War on Christianity” hymn book:
“As a man of faith, I am in good spirits,” he said. “I’m happy to be serving the Lord and standing up for what’s right.”
The Oregon Labor Board was the last hope for Melissa and Aaron, and now it too has sided against them. The labor board ruling clearly stated that Sweet Cakes By Melissa is not a “religious institution” under law, regardless of the Kleins’ beliefs. They are a business and a public accommodation the same any other, and are required by law to provide equal service regardless of a customer’s sexual orientation. The Klein’s however, don’t seem to get it. They continue to say the state is “hostile to Christian businesses”.
We need someone who speaks FOX-Christian to explain to Aaron Klein (and to FOX News,) that no one is forcing them to be gay, or to enter a same-sex marriage. That WOULD be an intrusion into your religious freedom, and if that should ever happen, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with them in protest. Hell, I will hide them under my bed when the stormtroopers come for them. But baking a cake is not a protected activity.
I would ask Aaron and Melissa (and FOX News) to consider this: when Jesus fed the multitude with his five loaves and two fish, there were 5000 people in attendance. Statistically that means there were more than 200 gay members of that crowd. Jesus did not instruct his apostles to distribute food only to the straight people. He fed everyone.
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
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