State says 'Sweet Cakes' discriminated against same-sex couple
SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries said Friday that the Gresham bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa violated the civil rights of a same-sex couple when it denied service to them back on January 17, 2013. The ruling was made public one year to the day since it happened.
The state labor department said it found during its investigation "substantial evidence of unlawful discrimination" when the bakery refused to bake a wedding cake for the couple.
The department said private businesses are not allowed to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.
While there are exemptions for religious organizations and schools, the labor department determined that Sweet Cakes is not a religious organization and it violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007.
The department said it may bring formal charges against Sweet Cakes if the parties can't come to a settlement.
Sweet Cakes owners Melissa Klein and her husband, Aaron, refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple last year because they said homosexuality goes against their religious beliefs. The lesbian couple filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
The owners posted the following statement on their Facebook page:
To all of you that have been praying for Aaron and I, I want to say thank you. I know that your prayers are being heard. I feel such a peace with all of this that is going on. Even though there are days that are hard and times of struggle we still feel that the Lord is in this. It is His fight and our situation is in His hands. We received papers from BOLI yesterday and they have made their decision that we have apparently discriminated. From what we have gathered we now have to wait to find out what the fines will be within 60 days. I can't say much more but will update when I'm able to. Please continue to pray for our family. God is great, amazing and all powerful. I know He has a plan.
The Klein's closed their Gresham store-front in August after sales plummeted, and moved the bakery back into their home when it started.
Herbert Gray, the Klein's attorney, told KATU News in a phone call Friday night that the ruling was expected. He said, "My client's position hasn't changed. She has the right to live and work according to her beliefs."
Paul Thompson is the attorney for the same-sex couple. KATU News also talked to him on the phone on Friday night. He said his clients aren't ready to do an on-camera interview yet. He said they see the ruling as "bitter-sweet" because they knew all along they were discriminated against and not the state has made that official. They are coming to terms with what has happened.