Oregon AG Investigates Baker's Refusal to Make Wedding Cake for Lesbians

Pete Winn | February 4, 2013 | 6:49pm EST
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Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa. (Photo courtesy Sweet Cakes)

(CNSNews.com) – The Oregon attorney general’s office is investigating a Portland-area bakery after a lesbian couple filed a complaint alleging that the owner discriminated against them when he declined to make a wedding cake for their same-sex “marriage.”

Aaron Klein, who owns and operates Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery along with his wife in Gresham, Ore., said he received notice of the complaint last week from the Oregon Department of Justice.

The complaint stems from an incident which occurred Jan. 17, when a woman came in with her mother to test wedding cakes.

“I did my normal thing, where I asked what the bride-and-grooms’ first names were to write down on our wedding cake contract,” Klein told CNSNews.com.

“She – the girl – giggled a little bit and then informed me it was two brides. At which point, I looked up from my paper, and said, ‘I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t waste your time, but we don’t do same-sex marriages. We don’t believe it is right.”

Klein said the woman and her mother “looked at each other with a little bit of a disgusted look” and got up to leave.

“Ten minutes later the mother came back in and told me I got to say my piece and I have a right to my opinion, but she wanted to give me hers, or say her opinion, and I said, ‘OK, go ahead.

“She proceeded to tell me that she used to think like I did, then her daughter told her she was gay, and she realized that God had made her daughter that way. And disagreed with her. I told her the Bible doesn’t say that.

She told me that I needed to read my Bible, and I quoted Leviticus 20:13, at which point she told me I was wrong, and stormed out.”

Jeff Manning, communications director for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, confirmed for CNSNews.com that the complaint, which had been filed by Laurel Bowman of Portland, was being investigated by the consumer protection division of the Oregon Department of Justice. (See Complaint)

According to the complaint, Bowman said that she and her fiancé purchased a wedding cake in November of 2011 for her mother’s wedding for $250.

“When we decided to get married ourselves we chose to go back and purchase a second cake,” the complaint stated.

“When asked dfor (sic) a grooms name my soon to be mother in law informed them of my name. The owner then proceeded to say we were abominations unto the lord and refused to make another cake for us despite having already paid $250 once and having done business in the past. We were informed that our money was equal, my fiancé reduced to tears. This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Bowman could not be reached for this story.

Manning said that while Oregon does not sanction same-sex marriage, it is against Oregon law for “a public accommodation” to refuse to do business with a customer on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

The baker, meanwhile, told CNSNews.com that neither he nor his wife have been secretive about their beliefs, and that others have asked in the past if he makes cakes for same-sex weddings – without incident.

“Usually it starts out with questions – ‘Do you do same-sex wedding cakes?’ And we’ve always been really respectful about it and said, ‘No, it’s against our religious beliefs, and we just don’t do them. Everybody up ‘till this point has been really understanding.”

Klein said he is merely standing up for his Christian beliefs.

“I believe that the Book of Genesis tells us, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife,’ and I believe that when it says a man and a woman, it means a man and a woman. I believe that that is the institution of marriage from the beginning of time, and it’s something God ordained. I don’t want to be a part of the redefinition of that in any way, shape or form.”

Mat Staver, president of religious-liberty law firm Liberty Counsel, told CNSNews.com that no one should be forced to violate their religious beliefs just to stay in the bakery business. But that constitutional principle is no longer a slam-dunk.

“I think, clearly someone who raises a religious rights objection clearly has a right to be able to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs, and in this case should not have to cater a same-sex wedding,” Staver told CNSNews.com.

“However, I do know that in many parts of the country where there is either a sexual orientation or gender identity non-discrimination law, or even worse, a state that sanctions same-sex marriage, that when religious freedom collides with the homosexual agenda, the homosexual agenda, typically has been winning and religious free exercise has been losing.”

According to the Oregon Department of Justice, the matter is currently at the preliminary stage.

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