Oregon Bakery Guilty of Discriminating Against Lesbian Couple

| by Allison Geller

An Oregon bakery was found guilty of violating a lesbian couple’s civil rights when they refused to make a cake for the couple's wedding— though they had no qualms over providing cakes for celebrations of pagan rituals and stem cell research.

It all started last February when Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman went to Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Grisham, Oregon to order their wedding cake. The owner refused because of the couple’s sexuality. Gay marriage isn’t legal in Oregon, so the owner’s lawyer said that the store was justified in “refusing to participate in an event that the state of Oregon does not recognize."

“I apologized for wasting their time and said we don’t do same-sex marriages,” said owner Aaron Klein. “I honestly did not mean to hurt anybody, didn’t mean to make anybody upset, [it’s] just something I believe in very strongly.”

The story attracted national attention, with Food Network “Ace of Cakes” star Duff Goldman offering to make the couple a cake to celebrate their nuptials and deliver it from Los Angeles.

A local paper, the Willamette Week, began conducting its own undercover investigation when the contentious battle began. It ordered cakes from Sweet Cakes and another local bakery to celebrate a number of sacrilegious occasions, including a “midsummer solstice” party at the coven, complete with bonfire, and “two little clone cakes” to celebrate a grant for stem cell research. Sweet Cakes was happy to oblige.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries finally came out with a decision, stating that the business was in the wrong for discriminating against the couple. Discrimination based on sexual orientation was made illegal by the 2007 Oregon Equality Act, and the bureau said in a press release that it found “substantial evidence” that the bakery had violated the state’s anti-discrimination policies.

Sweet Cakes by Melissa transitioned from having a storefront to going only online during the proceedings. The BOLI decision may not be the end of negotiations: the couple and the business will have to agree on a settlement, and if none is reached, BOLI could file formal charges against the bakery.

Sources: KIRO-TV, The Advocate, Oregonian, Willamette Week (2)