September 8, 2013

Coverage of Ore. Couple’s Refusal to Make Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Wedding Cake Ignores Its Constitution’s Definition of Marriage

Following a voter-approved referendum in 2004, Oregon’s constitution (Article XV, Section 5A) has stated that “… only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.”

For some reason, that doesn’t seem to matter in the “Sweet Cakes” controversy over Aaron and Melissa Klein’s refusal earlier this year to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple’s (not legally recognized) “marriage.” The turned-down couple has filed a civil-rights complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Department of Labor and Industry. In the meantime, the Kleins, who have experienced ongoing harassment and threats against anyone and everyone who might refer business to them, have closed their storefront business and are operating it out of their home. Aaron has taken employment elsewhere. No press coverage that I have seen has raised the seemingly valid issue of how the Kleins can be forced to do something in support of a ceremony, i.e., same-sex “marriage,” which is not legally sanctioned and could construed to be an illegal act.

As is the case with the Huguenins, the New Mexico couple whose sanctioning at the hands of that state’s civil rights division for refusing to photograph a same-sex “commitment” ceremony was recently upheld by that state’s highest court, the Associated Press is from all appearances treating the story as a local one. Its August 14 unbylined dispatch, presented in full, read as follows (bolds are mine throughout this post; HT Watchdog Wire):

A same-sex couple in Oregon who tried to buy a cake for their wedding in January has filed a discrimination complaint against a bakery that turned them down on religious grounds.

SweetCakesLarge2013

The Oregonian reported on Wednesday that the state Bureau of Labor and Industries will investigate whether the business violated a 2007 state law that protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations.

The couple who operate Sweet Cakes by Melissa cited their Christian faith and right to religious freedom.

The state labor bureau says it’s the 10th complaint in five years of discrimination in a public place based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The 2007 law provides an exemption for religious organizations and parochial schools but does not allow private business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

If the AP’s reference to the complainants as “an Oregon couple” is correct, then the legal and constitutional conflict noted above would seem to apply (same-sex “marriage” has been legal in nearby Washington State since early 2012, and the complaining couple would appear to be on more solid ground if they resided there).

It seems like a stretch to assert that the 2007 law trumps the language hard-wired into the state’s constitution and forces the Kleins to support something the state doesn’t formally recognize.

The underlying Oregonian report does not mention how the couple has been harassed and their referral network intimidated. During the past several months, TheBlaze.com has posted items chronicling those horrid details at least here, here, and here.

Melissa Klein’s reaction to what has transpired is in most respects inspiring:

“It is so worth it just to sit back and watch how God provides for you. I struggled in the past with trust and even with my faith in Him and through this my faith has grown, my trust has grown tremendously,” Melissa told TheBlaze, offering up advice to those who fear the cost of standing by their convictions. “Yeah, I have lost something I worked really hard for and lots of years put into, but I know that really doesn’t matter. My eternal home is what matters. I’m not going to bring all that with me…I’m happy and okay and I’m being provided for.”

Sweet Cakes by Melissa is still being challenged by Cryer and Bowman and the business could end up being forced to pay thousands to the couple if the discrimination complaint is substantiated by the State Bureau of Labor and Industries. The civil penalty would potentially be $1,000 per violation and up to $50,000 for emotional damage for each person refused service.

Klein’s sentiments are truly noble. But that still leaves the matter of religion being driven from the public square, and people of faith being effectively banned from carrying out their beliefs in public and even being forced to violate them — situations which the vast majority of Americans clearly oppose, and which run completely afoul of our Founders’ intent — completely unaddressed.

The longer the press continues to consider the persecution of people like the Huguenins and the Kleins as local matters with no national significance, the longer that persecution will go on. Sadly, that’s the way they seems to prefer it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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4 Comments

  1. Hey, it’s been a while since I commented. I probably would not have commented on this issue except that I have been a major thread over at Protein Wisdom on the exact same story that I have a few of my ducks in a row. With that:
    1. You don’t need an actual wedding license to order or by a wedding cake.
    2. People get married in other places before returning home (Las Vegas has a huge industry to cater to these…) to celebrate with friends and family.
    3. Protests by organizations and groups against corporations or businesses has been regularly supported on the Right.
    4. No one has told the OR bakers to shut up, stop their beliefs or renounce their faith, not the State, not the complaintants, not the organizations.
    5. There is no difference in a same sex wedding cake or a opposite sex wedding cake – both use the same ingredients and process to produce. You have one picture of the type of cakes they produce, they have many others on their facebook site – none of which are particularly opposite sex oriented (wedding rings, stylized hearts, floral bouquets adorn their wedding cakes).
    6. The gay couple have been customers of the bakery for some time, including having purchased a wedding cake from them in the past (for a family member).
    7. I do not support intimidation or threats of violence and condemn any such as criminal acts that should be punished. But telling a vendor if you continue to support (say JCPenney or Walmart or Sweet Cakes) we will withhold our business, tell our friends and their friends to withhold our business, seems to be a popular tactic on the Right also.
    8. Based on the comments of the bakers, their position seemed to be: as long as you just buy our products, we will enjoy having you as a customer, but if you buy our products to celebrate being gay, we won’t sell you anything.
    9. Can a muslim shopkeeper be forced to sell to a woman without a burqa? Can a Jewish drycleaner be forced to clean a cotton/wool blend suit? Can a Christian business be forced to rehire an employee fired for getting pregnant while single? Can a baker that makes wedding cakes be forced to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple?
    10. I don’t recall boycott calls of American Express or Cover Girl for having Ellen as a spokesperson, but JCP gets hammered…during the Christmas season for ‘having a gay spokesperson’?
    11. I am not a fan of militants, of any stripe, but gay activists often do much more harm to gays.
    12. Lastly, I will note that back when the story broke (february), the OR bakers saw a large UPTICK in business as people rallied around them (and facebook likes soared). In the end though, lot of businesses in a down economy can’t afford to push away customers…and the ‘wedding’ business has a fair share of gay involvement…

    As always Tom, you do incredible work and I appreciate your posts daily.

    Comment by Tracy Coyle — September 8, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

  2. Thanks for coming by, Tracy, and for the nice words.

    8. Based on the comments of the bakers, their position seemed to be: as long as you just buy our products, we will enjoy having you as a customer, but if you buy our products to celebrate being gay, we won’t sell you anything.

    I think they’ve made it clear that their only issue is making a cake for a gay marriage vs. “we won’t sell you anything.”

    9. Can a muslim shopkeeper be forced to sell to a woman without a burqa? Can a Jewish drycleaner be forced to clean a cotton/wool blend suit? Can a Christian business be forced to rehire an employee fired for getting pregnant while single? Can a baker that makes wedding cakes be forced to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple?

    Actually, Muslims cab drivers have apparently refused passengers on various religious grounds and haven’t been sanctioned for it.

    I would think that a Muslim caterer should be able to beg off making a 40-person pork tenderloin meal.

    The whole idea of compelled selling outside of clearly defined “public accommodations” is extremely problematic.

    10. I don’t recall boycott calls of American Express or Cover Girl for having Ellen as a spokesperson, but JCP gets hammered during the Christmas season for ‘having a gay spokesperson’?

    The boycott groups aren’t necessarily consistent. Sometimes it’s based on how in-your-face the target’s response is (see my post on Coke in Spain).

    11. I am not a fan of militants, of any stripe, but gay activists often do much more harm to gays.

    Well, yeah, but they control the game board right now.

    12. Lastly, I will note that back when the story broke (february), the OR bakers saw a large UPTICK in business as people rallied around them (and facebook likes soared). In the end though, lot of businesses in a down economy can’t afford to push away customers…and the ‘wedding’ business has a fair share of gay involvement.

    Bad strategy on their part. They should have quietly celebrated the uptick, but instead I think their publicly noted uptick moved opponents to take it to their referral network.

    Comment by Tom — September 8, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

  3. A note on #8: I think they would sell any of their products to the gay couple for any purpose OTHER than a same sex wedding – then, none of their products would have been available for that purpose (the wedding celebration).

    I also think both sides took advantage of the situation and the bakers lost out in the end. Note, the gays don’t come off smelling all rosy. Whatever ‘plus’ they had, having outsiders come in and pump up the situation against other businesses just made it much worse. I will note the OR bakers said they had turned down other gay couples in the past without an issue – so, they probably had reason to believe this would be no different. Standing up for principles seldom happens without a cost however.

    Comment by Tracy Coyle — September 8, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

  4. I believe “they would sell any of their products to the gay couple for any purpose OTHER than a same sex wedding” is their position. I had so many windows open and just closed them all, but I recall seeing something ver close to that.

    “Standing up for principles” should be limited to the financial loss of not getting the business in the first place, and word-of-mouth from the gay community not to patronize them. They’re clearly willing to pay a higher price, and have.

    Comment by Tom — September 8, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

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