Group works for right to refuse service for same-sex weddings

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It all started a year ago at a small bakery in Gresham called Sweet Cakes by Melissa.

Melissa and her husband, Aaron Klein, turned away a lesbian couple when they ordered a cake for their wedding.

That's against an Oregon law passed in 2007 that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and other protected factors.

Almost a year after the Sweet Cakes incident, a new group backed by the Oregon Family Council launched a petition that would rewrite state law.

The Friends of Religious Freedom announced it was seeking 87,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot next November.

It needs the signatures by July.

"People of faith don't want to be dragged by the hair to attend ceremonies that violate their deeply held religious beliefs," said Shawn Lindsay, the lawyer for the group. "There is a tremendous amount of conflict here. We want to find a way to get along peacefully and respect each other's rights."

The proposal would allow a religious exception for business owners who choose to refuse service for ceremonies and arrangements relating to same-sex weddings, civil unions and domestic partnerships.

The change, if passed by voters, would not allow discrimination against gays or lesbians for other reasons.

Basic Rights Oregon declined to be interviewed but sent an email saying:

"Religious freedom is a fundamental part of America. And while we are all entitled to our religious beliefs, those beliefs don't entitle any of us to discriminate against others, or disobey laws that are already in place to ensure that everyone is treated equally. Freedom means freedom for everyone, and it is wrong to treat people differently because of who they are and who they love."

The Bureau of Labor and Industries is still investigating the original complaint against Sweet Cakes by Melissa.