A Christian couple, former owner of the bakery Sweet Cakes has been fined by the Oregon Labor Commissioner for $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple. Under Oregon law, a business establishment isn’t allowed to discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation. The full statement from BOLI reads:
“The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the Complainants. Under Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion. Our agency is committed to fair and thorough enforcement of Oregon civil rights laws, including the Equality Act of 2007.”
Needless to say the business is ruined and so are the owners Aaron and Melissa Klein, $135,000 is a lot of money for a small business and the commissioner was clear that these funds are of their personal funds not business assets. Also, as a result of the fallout, other businesses they’ve worked with such as caterers and florists have refused to work with them and they’ve now closed their shop and is operating out of their home.
The lesbian couple Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer involved said that they suffered from emotional stress while being turned away by Aaron Klein after she told him what the cake was for a gay commitment ceremony. By all accounts it was a polite exchange and Rachel Bowman-Cryer left the bakery with her mother that day without any emotional display of upset. A few days later Aaron and Melissa Klein received a letter stating that they are being investigated for discrimination.
This could have ended a number of ways that would be less costly than it is now. First, they could have just made the damn cake, what good business owner turns away good business, who cares what it’s for? Since they are Christians and even quoted from the Book of Leviticus, would they say turn away someone who was ordering a cake to celebrate Satan? Or if an atheist person came in and was to order a cake to celebrate National Atheism Month (I made this up, I don’t know if there is such a thing) would they care or is it specifically the issue of gay marriage that’s got them so against it? What if it was someone’s second wedding, would that be a problem? Regardless, it was a stupid move from a business perspective, you don’t walk away from good business.
Secondly, was it necessary for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer to file a complaint with the Oregon Labor Commissioner? So, you got turned away and it made you feel icky, judged, humiliated, stressed, and you were ruminating about it for days and days and you lost sleep over it and it’s caused you untold emotional and psychological pain, were there no other bakeries available to order your cake from? You had to know that taking this step could potentially ruin a small business and the business owner’s livelihood? Was it worth all that to avenge your hurt feelings? And before I am called a bigot, I like to say that I am in full support of gay marriage, that’s not the point here. And I like to point out that refusing to bake a cake for a gay commitment ceremony is not the same thing as refusing service to someone on the basis of “race, sex, disability, age or religion”, being against gay marriage is a personal belief, it’s not the same as being openly racist, sexist or prejudiced against people who have disabilities. And Aaron Klein made it clear that as a Christian, he cannot be involved in any gay marriage related events. Was he wrong? The laws of Oregon seems to think so, but it’s been blown way out of proportion. It was not a rude exchange, he explained himself clearly and Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her mother seemed to understand at the time.
Now battlelines are drawn, between the LGBTQ activists and the religious freedom activists and I am afraid the latter will win publicity battle because it looks like that LGBTQ community is taking advantage of a nice Christian couple who are living by their convictions, they are now financially ruined, reputations in tatters and unable to continue in their chosen profession which is running a bakery. This upsetting episode has now made the papers and each side will have their say, it’s not going to be about the cake anymore but about LGBTQ rights and religious freedom, which will win? Do business owners need to be careful how they turned down business now, should they ever find themselves in a position needing to do so? Should business owners not give any reason for why they would decline business for fear of getting in trouble. I believe that Aaron Klein explained his position to them that day so that they would understand and not have it be used it against him. He technically didn’t have to give a reason or just make one up, like they can’t make it in time or they are too busy or what not. It would have saved him a lot of trouble.