A salutary example of how legislation for homosexual "marriage" will affect those with conscientious objections is the plight of Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Portland, Oregon. State Labor Commissioner, Brad Avakian, the state's top labor official, ordered them to pay a lesbian couple for emotional and mental suffering that resulted from "denial of service". The Kleins had cited their Christian beliefs against homosexual "marriage" in refusing to make a cake for the lesbians' wedding.
Avakian's ruling upheld a preliminary finding earlier that the Kleins, owners of Sweet Cakes had discriminated against the Portland couple on the basis of their sexual orientation. This case has ignited what is likely to be a long-running battle in the culture wars between civil rights advocates and religious freedom proponents who argue that business owners should have the right to refuse services for homosexual "weddings". Religious freedom is also a civil right but is consistently ignored by "civil rights" proponents such as the American Council for Civil Liberties (ACLU) which almost invariably take sides against religious rights.
Avakian's final order made it clear that serving potential customers equally trumps the Kleins' religious beliefs. Under
Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) said in a news release.
"This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage," Avakian wrote. "It is about a business's refusal to serve someone
because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal. Within Oregon's public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, has the freedom to fully participate in society. The ability to enter public places, to shop, to dine, to move about unfettered by bigotry."
Though the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 includes an exemption for religious organizations and schools, it does not permit private business owners to deny service and discriminate against potential customers, BOLI said.
Avakian ordered the Kleins to pay $75,000 to Rachel Bowman-Cryer and $60,000 to Laurel Bowman-Cryer. Anna Harmon, the Klein's lawyer said an appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals is likely: "I believe at this point they are intending to preserve their constitutional rights as much as they can".
This was confirmed in a Facebook post on the "Sweet Cakes by Melissa" page. "We will NOT give up this fight, and we will NOT be silenced. We stand for God's truth, God's word and freedom for ALL Americans. We are here to obey God not man, and we will not conform to this world. If we were to lose everything it would be totally worth it for our Lord who gave his one and only son, Jesus, for us! God will win this fight!"
In a statement issued through their attorney, Paul A. Thompson, the Bowman-Cryers thanked BOLI for "sending a clear message that discrimination will not be tolerated in our state."
"This has been a terrible ordeal for our entire family. We never imagined finding ourselves caught up in a fight for social justice," they said. "We endured daily, hateful attacks on social media, received death threats and feared for our family's safety, yet our goal remained steadfast. We were determined to ensure that this kind of blatant discrimination never happened to another couple, another family, another Oregonian."
The controversy began in on 17 January 2013 when Cryer (as she was known then) brought her mother, Cheryl McPherson, to a cake tasting appointment she had set up with Melissa Klein. That day, Melissa stayed home and Aaron went to the bakery. When he asked for the names of the bride and groom, Cryer said there would be two brides.
"I said, 'I'm very sorry, I believe I have wasted your time. We do not do cakes for same sex weddings,' " Klein testified.
In August 2013, Cryer and her partner filed a complaint with BOLI. The agency conducted an investigation and in January 2014 brought charges that the Kleins had unlawfully discriminated against the couple because of their sexual orientation.