John M. Becker

Oregon: Anti-Gay Bakers Violated Couple's Rights

Filed By John M. Becker | January 19, 2014 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bigoted bakery, Christianists, hypocritical Christians, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, Melissa Klein, Oregon, religious exemptions, same-sex marriage, special rights, Sweet Cakes, theocrats, weddings

ruined_cake.jpgRemember Sweet Cakes by Melissa, the anti-gay Oregon bakery whose owners refused to serve a lesbian couple, claiming that their homophobic religious beliefs allowed them to violate the state's anti-discrimination law -- and lost so much business as a result that they had to close up shop?

Well, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries announced last week that its investigation into the incident found "substantial evidence" that Sweet Cakes discriminated against the couple because of their sexual orientation, in violation of state law.

Oregon Live reports:

The controversial case began a year ago. Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman of Portland say they were denied a wedding cake by the bakery's owners, who cited their own religious beliefs. Cryer and Bowman, who are domestic partners, soon lodged a complaint with the state.

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

Paul Thompson, the Portland attorney representing Cryer and Bowman, said the women consider the investigation's findings bittersweet. He said the two are about as pleased as they can be, given that state investigation ultimately determined they were discriminated against.

Herbert Grey, the Beaverton attorney representing bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein, said the investigation's outcome was expected. He said the Kleins will participate in the conciliation process, but are maintaining their original stance.

The Kleins have contended they weren't discriminating against the couple, who were customers in the past. Instead, they say 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.

Essentially, the Kleins argued that their own personal religious beliefs exempted them from having to obey Oregon's nondiscrimination law (which prohibits sexual orientation-based discrimination), but the state of Oregon is having none of it.

It's a defeat for Christianists who believe their right to harbor religion-based bigotry trumps every person's right to equal treatment in the public marketplace, but a sweet victory for the rest of us.


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