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The Two Sides of the Oregon Gay Wedding Cake Story
In Oregon in 2013, the Christian owners of a bakery refused to do a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, citing the fact that they do not support gay marriage. From that decision, there has been a huge escalation, especially with the recent decision by the Supreme Court to eliminate bans to gay marriage across the country.
Here are the two sides to the story and the issues that this case highlights.
Aaron and Melissa Klein
The Conservative (Fox News) Side
On Facebook on July 8th, 2015, there appeared a story about a married couple who own a bakery in Oregon published at Fox News Insider. The story reported the following:
The Christian owners of an Oregon bakery are facing a hefty fine after refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding. A complaint against Sweet Cakes By Melissa was filed after the owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, turned away a lesbian couple who requested a wedding cake in 2013. The state ruled that the owners were discriminating against the couple based on their sexual orientation.
Fox News reported that the state has now ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 in damages to the lesbian couple and issued a gag order, which bans them from "speaking publicly about their refusal to participate in or bake wedding cakes for same-sex unions."
Aaron Klein claimed that the state of Oregon had violated his First Amendment right, specifically freedom of religion and freedom of speech. He explained they decided not to bake the cake for the lesbian couple because of their religious beliefs.
The couple is planning an appeal based on the fact that paying $135,000 for politely telling someone that they cannot bake a cake for them seems a little ridiculous.
See the original article here.
Should Business Owners Have the Right of Refusal for Their Services?
Should Private Business Owners Have the Right of Refusal
This case, according to the account above, brings up the important issue of whether or not business owners should have the right of refusal. Most people would be acceptable with owners choosing who they serve, as it is only to their own detriment to deny that service. There will more than likely be other businesses that can cater to the people denied.
If someone's religious beliefs conflict with the actions of that business, forcing someone to go against their religious beliefs is not something this country was founded on. So, there really should be some kind of balance.
The Liberal (The New Civil Right Movement) Side
A simple google search on the topic yielded the following rebuttal from the website www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com. They give a drastically different accounting of the event compared to the Fox News story:
In January 2013, when Laurel Bowman and Rachel Cryer planned to marry, they selected a bakery they had done business with before: Sweet Cakes by Melissa. They had previously bought a cake through the store for one of their mother's birthdays.
However, when Aaron Klein learned that the cake was for a lesbian couple, he refused service right then and there. "I believe I have wasted your time," he claims to have said. "We do not do cakes for same-sex weddings."
Bowman filed a consumer complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ). In that complaint she laid out the details of the event that included them previously using the business and how they were turned down this time once the owners learned that the product was for a lesbian couple. One of the owners had gone so far as to call them abominations unto the Lord.
Cryer's mom left a review on the Sweet Cakes' Facebook page, cautioning customers on the bakery's secret "no same-sex wedding" policy. Bowman sent an email to their wedding venue, doing similarly.
Later, the Oregon DOJ sent Cryer's consumer complaint to the Kleins, with a cover letter requesting that they respond to the complainants. It was an attempt to encourage reconciliation.
Instead, Aaron Klein posted the discrimination complaint to Facebook (not taking the precaution of redacting the couple's name and address from the document). "This is what happens when you tell gay people you won't do their 'wedding cake,'" he posted.
The Kleins then took to the news and media. They cozied up to anti-gay hate group Family Research Council, campaigning at appallingly anti-gay hate rallies, for their business' totally-fictional right to discriminate against LGBT people.
After the discrimination complaint was made public by the Kleins, the Bowman-Cryers became the victims of death threats — as well as outrageous and horrific claims by conservative media outlets and anti-gay groups.
As taken from the New Civil Right Movement's article, Oregon has public accommodation laws protecting minorities from discrimination. Even better, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) proved so-very capable in investigating and enforcing those laws.
This isn't about cake. It is about a business' refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal. Within Oregon’s public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, has the freedom to fully participate in society. The ability to enter public places, to shop, to dine, to move about unfettered by bigotry.
The agency announced the order in a press release, writing:
The BOLI Final Order awards $60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer for emotional suffering stemming directly from unlawful discrimination. The amounts are damages related to the harm suffered by the Complainants, not fines or civil penalties which are punitive in nature.
The Final Order notes that the non-economic damages are consistent with the agency’s previous orders, such as an earlier ruling against a Bend dentist In the Matter of Andrew W. Engle. In that case, BOLI awarded a Christian employee $325,000 in damages for physical, mental and emotion suffering due to religious discrimination and harassment.
BOLI levied the damages against the business not because the right of refusal, but more so for the Kleins taking the issue to the media. The emotional firestorm that they created for the lesbian couple was the reason for the monetary judgement against them. It was the actions taken after the right of refusal, not the actual act itself that brought the monetary issue into play.
In this case, that is a very important distinction as the Kleins and media continue to make it appear that the damages were actually a fine against the business for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple. That is completely false.
See the entire article here.
Amy's Baking Company's Social Media Faux Pas
Mental Anguish Damages, Not a Fine
While the Fox News headline makes it seem like the bakery owners were fined for not serving the lesbian couple, the Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) in Oregon makes it pretty clear that the fines were actually damages due to the fact that the Kleins made public the complaint and focused negative media attention to the claimants, including death threats, by posting their personal information online.
The resulting harassment is the main reason for the damages, not the refusal to serve the lesbian couple. As Oregon does have anti-discriminatory laws that include sexual orientation, by refusing to treat these customers equally, the Kleins were violating Oregon law. This was the nature of the complaint.
Some of this resembles the Kitchen Nightmare's episode regarding Amy's Baking Company and the social media firestorm that followed their business after customers gave them negative reviews. In trying to fight back, it only turned uglier. The Oregon bakers may very well end up going through some similar issues by taking this issue public via social media instead of resolving it just between the two parties.
Do People Apply Their Religious Freedoms Consistently?
Religious Freedom Issues
In this case, the fact that the lesbian couple had used the company previously might have been a factor. The Kleins claim that gay marriage is a sin in the Bible and that it violates their religious beliefs. This is going to create a whole other set of issues. How many interpretations are there going to be within religious freedom?
In the Bible, divorce is also considered a sin. Adultery is also a sin. Do the bakers in Oregon bake cakes for someone's second wedding? For people that have cheated on a spouse? How involved and consistent are they in applying their religious freedom to all their customers?
It also brings up another issue, why is everyone attacking only the Christians on this issue? It's probably because they are the most vocal about it, but there are other faiths that do not have a great track record on the subject as can be seen in the video below:
It's always entertaining to read the news these days to see the spin that different news agencies try and sell to the public. The conservative news agencies like Fox News apparently are aiming to create situations to attack the recent Supreme Court decision affecting gay marriage.
While the liberal side is trying to sell equality and the separation of Church and State. In this case, the accounts are very different and both of the stories should be read to decide which is actually correct.
Either way, this is one of the many tricky gay marriage situations that will surely arise in the upcoming years.