Oregon Baker Accused of Discriminating Against Lesbian Couple
A baker from Oregon has been accused of refusing to sell a wedding cake to a couple because the women are lesbians, KATU, ABC's affiliate station in Portland, Ore., reports.
Aaron Klein, the owner of Sweet Cakes Bakery in Gresham, Ore., (16 miles west of Portland, Ore.), may now face legal action for denying a lesbian couple a wedding cake as one of the women filed a complaint with the state.
The complaint states Klein broke Oregon's anti-discrimination law and the woman who filed the complaint, who wishes to remain anonymous for now, says she bought a cake from Klein for her mother's wedding. She later decided to return with her partner on Jan. 17 to purchase their own wedding cake but Klein refused to sell them the dessert because they of their orientation.
The baker doesn't deny the allegations and even admits that he has refused to sell cakes to other same-sex couples in the past.
"I apologized for wasting their time and said we don't do same-sex marriages," Klein told the news station. "I honestly did not mean to hurt anybody, didn't mean to make anybody upset, [it's] just something I believe in very strongly."
The complaint also alleges that Klein, who owns the bakery with his wife Melissa, said he wouldn't sell the couple a cake because "they were abominations to the Lord." The baker denies making the remark, however.
The Oregon Equality Act of 2007 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the statue includes public accommodations, such as businesses. Still, Klein says his religious beliefs are more important than state law and he believes he is protected by the Constitution.
"If I have to be, I guess, penalized for my beliefs, then I guess, well, that'll be what it is," he said. "My First Amendment rights allow me to practice my religion as I see it."
He also spoke with NBC News about the incident and said: "I believe that marriage is a religious institution ordained by God. A man should leave his mother and father and cling to his wife...that to me is the beginning of marriage."
The baker went on to say that he doesn't believe he is anti-gay and claims he would sell his goods to members of the LGBT community and has no problem talking with them. He did note, however, that he would "rather have my kids see their dad stand up for what he believes in then to see him bow down because one person complained."
The state's attorney general's civil enforcing officers are currently looking into the incident and Portland attorney Paula Barran told KATU that the case falls under the state's discrimination laws.
"Statutes don't get to overcome constitutional protections, so if somebody had a religious-based reason for wanting not to trade with somebody, I think you have a really interesting test case for whether or not a statute like this can apply," Barran said. She added that she wasn't sure how Klein's defense would factor into the case.
A similar incident occurred in August of last year when Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in a small city outside Denver, Col., refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple and then defended his actions. Phillips said that he accepts LGBT employees and customers but does not support marriage equality and, like Klein, would rather be shut down than sell his products to same-sex couples.
"If it came to that point, we would close down the bakery before we would compromise our beliefs, so that may be what it comes to," Phillips said. "We'll see. If gays come in and want to order birthday cakes or any cakes for any occasion, graduations, or whatever, I have no prejudice against that whatsoever. It's just the wedding cake -- not the people, not their lifestyle."
Additionally, in September, it was reported that Amy Lynn and her partner Emily Thomas said the owner of a wedding venue rejected them once the owner discovered the event would be a for a same-sex couple.
"She sort of dwelled on it a little bit and then eventually she said, 'You know, I actually don't think that would be a good fit," Thomas said. "It was really jarring for me because I was only asking just to be sure," Thomas said.