Following a voter-approved referendum in 2004, Oregon's constitution (Article XV, Section 5A) has stated that "... only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage."
For some reason, that doesn't seem to matter in the "Sweet Cakes" controversy over Aaron and Melissa Klein's refusal earlier this year to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple's (not legally recognized) "marriage." The turned-down couple has filed a civil-rights complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Department of Labor and Industry. In the meantime, the Kleins, who have experienced ongoing harassment and threats against anyone and everyone who might refer business to them, have closed their storefront business and are operating it out of their home. Aaron has taken employment elsewhere. No press coverage that I have seen has raised the seemingly valid issue of how the Kleins can be forced to do something in support of a ceremony, i.e., same-sex "marriage," which is not legally sanctioned and could construed to be an illegal act.
As is the case with the Huguenins, the New Mexico couple whose sanctioning at the hands of that state's civil rights division for refusing to photograph a same-sex "commitment" ceremony was recently upheld by that state's highest court, the Associated Press is from all appearances treating the story as a local one. Its August 14 unbylined dispatch, presented in full, read as follows (HT Watchdog Wire) bolds are mine throughout this post):
A same-sex couple in Oregon who tried to buy a cake for their wedding in January has filed a discrimination complaint against a bakery that turned them down on religious grounds.
The Oregonian reported on Wednesday that the state Bureau of Labor and Industries will investigate whether the business violated a 2007 state law that protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations.
The couple who operate Sweet Cakes by Melissa cited their Christian faith and right to religious freedom.
The state labor bureau says it's the 10th complaint in five years of discrimination in a public place based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The 2007 law provides an exemption for religious organizations and parochial schools but does not allow private business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
If the AP's reference to the complainants as "an Oregon couple" is correct, then the legal and constitutional conflict noted above would seem to apply (same-sex "marriage" has been legal in nearby Washington State since early 2012, and the complaining couple would appear to be on more solid ground if they resided there).
It seems like a stretch to assert that the 2007 law trumps the language hard-wired into the state's constitution and forces the Kleins to support something the state doesn't formally recognize.
The underlying Oregonian report does not mention how the couple has been harassed and their referral network intimidated. During the past several months, TheBlaze.com has posted items chronicling those horrid details at least here, here, and here.
Melissa Klein's reaction to what has transpired is in most respects inspiring:
“It is so worth it just to sit back and watch how God provides for you. I struggled in the past with trust and even with my faith in Him and through this my faith has grown, my trust has grown tremendously,” Melissa told TheBlaze, offering up advice to those who fear the cost of standing by their convictions. “Yeah, I have lost something I worked really hard for and lots of years put into, but I know that really doesn’t matter. My eternal home is what matters. I’m not going to bring all that with me…I’m happy and okay and I’m being provided for.”
Sweet Cakes by Melissa is still being challenged by Cryer and Bowman and the business could end up being forced to pay thousands to the couple if the discrimination complaint is substantiated by the State Bureau of Labor and Industries. The civil penalty would potentially be $1,000 per violation and up to $50,000 for emotional damage for each person refused service.
Klein's sentiments are truly noble. But that still leaves the matter of religion being driven from the public square, and people of faith being effectively banned from carrying out their beliefs in public and even being forced to violate them — situations which the vast majority of Americans clearly oppose, and which run completely afoul of our Founders' intent — completely unaddressed.
The longer the press continues to consider the persecution of people like the Huguenins and the Kleins as local matters with no national significance, the longer that persecution will go on. Sadly, that's the way they seems to prefer it.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.