January 20, 2014, Portland,Oregon (FRC/KATU) — In a politically correct world, the costs of running a business are a lot more than dollars and cents. For Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of a small Oregon bakery, the price is their First Amendment rights. Their dream of opening a dessert shop near Portland, Oregon turned into a nightmare when two lesbians refused to take “no” for an answer on their request for a same-sex “wedding” cake.
Exactly one year ago, the Kleins explained that they couldn’t take the order because it would violate their faith to participate in a same-sex “marriage” ceremony. Furious, the women filed a complaint with the state. The story made national headlines, as the young couple became another face in the war on religious liberty. “We still stand by what we believe from the beginning,” Aaron told reporters. “I’m not sure what the future holds, but as far as where we’re at right now… it’s almost as if the state is hostile toward Christian businesses.”
And the state isn’t the only one. After word spread, the harassment in the liberal suburb of Portland became too much to take. The Kleins were forced to close the shop in Gresham and operate out of their home. Even there, the family was a target. Activists broke into their company truck and painted “bigot” across the side.
Now, 12 months later, the state of Oregon is weighing in — and not on the side of free speech and free exercise. Investigators from the state Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled late last week that the couple was guilty of discrimination and ordered the Kleins to settle. If they refuse, the Bureau threatens to bring “formal charges.” Herbert Grey, the bakers’ attorney, was flabbergasted. “They’re being punished by the state of Oregon for refusing to participate in an event the state of Oregon does not recognize.” Even the state constitution defines marriage the same way as Aaron and Melissa — and they’re being persecuted.
While the couple debates their next move, surrender is not an option. In a Facebook post to her 12,000 fans, Melissa thanked people for their support. “I know that your prayers are being heard. I feel such a peace with all of this that is going on. Even though there are days that are hard… we still feel that the Lord is in this. It is His fight and our situation is in His hands.”
BOLI finds substantial evidence of unlawful discrimination in bakery civil rights complaint
Sweet Cakes’ complaint will now move into conciliation to determine whether settlement can be reached
A Gresham bakery violated the civil rights of a same-sex couple when it denied service based on sexual orientation, a Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) investigation has found.
The couple filed the complaint against Sweet Cakes by Melissa under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, a law that protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender Oregonians in employment, housing and public places.
Under Oregon law, Oregonians may not be denied service based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law provides an exemption for religious organizations and schools, but does not allow private business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot legally deny service based on race, sex, age, disability or religion.
The investigation concludes that the bakery is not a religious institution under law and that the business’ policy of refusing to make same-sex wedding cakes represents unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.
With the substantial evidence determination, the complaint now moves into conciliation to see if the parties can reach a settlement. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the bureau may bring formal charges and move the issue to BOLI’s Administrative Prosecution Unit, responsible for processing contested civil rights division cases pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and BOLI contested case hearing rules.
Oregon businesses seeking guidance on the equality act’s religious exemptions or other provisions of the law can contact BOLI’s technical assistance for employers program at (971) 673-0824.
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