Oregon bakery violated gay couple’s civil rights

Bakery owners say baking a cake for a same-sex wedding goes against their Christian beliefs

Something old, something new in the eyes of the law.
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

A bakery in suburban Portland, Ore., violated the civil rights of a same-sex couple by refusing to bake a cake for the women's wedding, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries said Friday evening.

Investigators found substantial evidence that the bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, unlawfully discriminated against the couple on the basis of their sexual orientation, agency spokesman Charlie Burr said.

The couple — Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman of Portland — said they were denied a wedding cake last January by the bakery's owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein. The women, who The Oregonian newspaper said were in a domestic partnership, filed a complaint with the state.

The state will now oversee a conciliation process to see if the parties can reach a settlement, The Oregonian reported. If not, the labor bureau may pursue charges before an administrative law judge.

Oregon law bars discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in jobs and in places that serve the public, such as restaurants and bakeries.

State law provides an exemption for religious organizations and parochial schools but does not allow private business owners to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

‘There are two brides’

Cryer said she went to the bakery in the city of Gresham on Jan. 17, 2013, and met with Aaron Klein, who asked for the date and names of the bride and groom.

"I told him, 'There are two brides, and our names are Rachel and Laurel,'" her complaint said.

Klein responded that he and his wife didn't serve same-sex weddings and "cited a religious belief for (the) refusal to make cakes for same-sex couples planning to marry," the complaint said. 

Herbert Grey, the Kleins' lawyer, said his clients will participate in the conciliation process but maintain their original stance.

The Kleins have said they weren't discriminating against the couple, who were customers in the past. Instead, they said they were practicing their constitutional right to religious freedom. 

They have said baking a cake for a same-sex wedding would violate their Christian beliefs.

"They're being punished by the state of Oregon for refusing to participate in an event that the state of Oregon does not recognize," Grey said.

Oregon voters decided in 2004 to amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. 

An initiative to overturn the amendment is expected to be on the 2014 ballot. Oregon officials have said the state will recognize marriages of same-sex couples who wed in other states or countries.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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Civil Rights, Gay Rights

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