Earlier this year, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a small bakery in Gresham, Oregon just outside of Portland, refused to make a wedding cake for one of its customers after learning that it was for a same-sex wedding ceremony.
This week, after a legal complaint, a public fight, and an online debate over the business’ decision to refuse service to a lesbian couple, Sweet Cakes by Melissa has closed its doors.
“This fight is not over we will continue to stand strong,” reads the sign announcing the store’s closure, posted September 1.
The legal debate around the bakery’s decision to refuse to make the lesbian couple’s wedding cake is over whether nondiscrimination of LGBT customers includes supporting gay wedding ceremonies.
Aron and Melissa Klein, the owners of Sweet Cakes, feel that they are being forced to make wedding cakes for gay couples, which is a violation of their right to practice their faith freely. The bakery owners argue that they have plenty of LGBT customers who have patronized their business for years, and that they have no problem with gay customers—they simply refuse to make wedding cakes because it goes against their religious beliefs.
“Religious freedom is becoming not free anymore,” continues the sign on their storefront announcing their decision to close. “This is ridiculous that we cannot practice our faith.”
In a complaint filed by Laurel Bowman, one of the brides that asked the bakery for the wedding cake, Bowman says that after the bakery owners learned that the cake was for a gay wedding, “the owner proceeded to say we were abominations unto the Lord and refused to make [the]cake for us.”
“I believe that infringes upon the Constitution in certain cases,” Klein, the owner of the bakery, said to a crowd of supporters back in February. “I have the right to exercise my religion as I see fit. But now they’re going to the extent of saying that I can’t even abstain from homosexual union if I feel that it’s not right.”
Unfortunately for the business owners, Oregon’s 659A.403, the law that prohibits discrimination in a place of public accommodation, is quite clear: “It is an unlawful practice for any person to deny full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation.”
In other words, if Sweet Cakes by Melissa offered wedding cakes to straight couples, it had to do so for its gay customers as well.
Oregon has allowed domestic partnerships since 2008, and equality activists are organizing to put the legal recognition of same-sex marriages on the ballot in 2014.