Oregon Bakery Refuses Service to Same Sex Couple
Hearkening back to the era of race-related service denial on religious grounds, a bakery in Oregon is using the religion card as an excuse to deny service to a lesbian couple. Sweet Cakes owner Aaron Klein recently refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple (after previously selling a cake to them for a heterosexual wedding for one of their parents). When questioned, the owner outright admitted he refused a public accommodation to the couple based on their sexual orientation – something that’s literally against the law in the state of Oregon. According to local news affiliate KATU News:
Did Sweet Cakes owner Aaron Klein violate the law when he told the couple that he couldn’t sell them a cake because “they were abominations to the Lord?” That’s what Oregon Attorney General’s civil enforcement officers are looking into after one of the brides-to-be filed a complaint on Jan. 28. The woman who filed the complaint said she had previously bought a cake from Sweet Cakes for her mother’s wedding. It was fine. But when her partner went back for their wedding cake on Jan. 17, the owner refused. Klein on Friday denied making the harsh statement, but admitted to a KATU reporter on camera that he did deny her service.
According to the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, businesses must provide all persons “full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is 18 years of age or older.”
Though Klein claims his federal First Amendment rights override this state law, a judge will ultimately have to weigh in to see if his reasoning is sound. Based on past decisions – particularly by the Supreme Court (such as their Hobby Lobby decision) – things don’t look good for him.
Then again, using Klein’s reasoning, business owners could also be able to refuse service (based on religious reasons) to anyone else as well – Muslims, Jews, non-virgins getting married, interracial couples, etc. – the list is nearly endless for those of the Christian faith (especially for those who read the Bible as the literal word of God). Just as business owners attempted to use the religion card in the Jim Crow era to discriminate against African Americans, people like Klein seem to think their religion shields them from legal accountability.
In my opinion, if you are not being physically prevented from going to whatever church you choose, your First Amendment rights are not being violated. When it was established, the religious establishment clause of the First Amendment was meant to prevent the government from forcing a particular religion upon its citizenry; furthermore, it was meant to ensure the population could attend the church of their choice. It was never meant to allow people to discriminate against others as Klein is doing.
Here’s the local broadcast concerning the case, including an interview with the bakery owner: