An Oregon bakery that was threatened by the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) with an investigation for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple closed its store on August 31, choosing instead to sell its products from home. Sweet Cakes, located in Gresham, and owned by religious Christians Aaron and Melissa Klein, would not sell a wedding cake to lesbian couple Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman last January when it became clear it was for their lesbian wedding.
Bowman filed a complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ). Jeff Manning, a Justice Department spokesman, advised Bowman’s lawyer to take up the matter with BOLI as it was “more of a civil rights case than a consumer protection case . . . BOLI may be the more fitting venue as the bureau has jurisdiction over civil rights cases.”
The “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” Facebook page on August 30 featured the post, “This will be our last weekend at the shop, we are moving our business to an in-home bakery. “I will post our new number soon. Email will stay the same firstname.lastname@example.org.” Melissa Klein stated in August that the matter was “definitely not discrimination at all. We don’t have anything against lesbians or homosexuals. It has to do with our morals and beliefs. It’s so frustrating because we went through all of this in January, when it all came out.”
The closing of the store was in response to the investigation reported on August 14 by BOLI claiming Sweet cakes may have violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which states that sexual orientation may not be used to deny service to customers. Schools and religious groups are currently exempt, but private businesses are not.
Since 2007, there have been 11 complaints of unlawful discrimination in public places in Oregon due to the 2007 equality law. Five of those complaints failed but three others wound up in setlements, including one last week where a bar lost $400,000 for excluding transgendered individuals.
On Sunday, September 1, the Gresham Sweet Cakes bakery had this note on the door: “This fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong. Your Religious Freedom is becoming not Free anymore. This is ridiculous that we can not practice our faith. The LORD is good and we will continue to serve Him with all our heart.”