Gay Issues

Oregon Family Council Files For Right To Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

The conservative Christian group that campaigned to ban same-sex marriage in Oregon in 2004 has filed an initiative to allow for discrimination against same-sex couples.

The Oregon Family Council (OFC) wants to ensure that individuals and private businesses have the right to refrain from participating in or supporting ceremonies for same-sex civil unions, domestic partnerships, or marriages, if it violates their religious beliefs.

The news came just as pro-gay marriage efforts received a huge boost from Oregon-based shoe giant Nike, which donated $280,000 to an effort to put same-sex marriage on the ballot next year.

The OFC’s “Protect Religious Freedom Initiative” allows wedding venues, florists, bakers, photographers and other businesses usually contracted to work weddings to refuse same-sex couples without being in violation of the state’s nondiscrimination laws. The proposal also bans couples from filing a civil suit against a business for refusing to serve them.

One Oregon bakery received so many threats after the baker and her husband refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple in January that they later closed their business.

Aaron and Melissa Klein shut down Sweet Cakes By Melissa in Gresham after receiving harassing emails and phones calls. They were also pulled off the vendors lists of area wedding planners and soon found their business suffering.

Teresa Harke, director of communications at OFC, said badgering like this has people opposed to same-sex marriage fearful to speak out.

“They’ve almost been beaten down to the point where they’re afraid to speak out,” Harke said.

Most recent polls show that 53 percent of Oregon voters support same-sex marriage. The state began supporting same-sex marriage from other states last month, according to ThinkProgress.

A nondiscrimination complaint was filed against the owners of Sweet Cakes By Melissa and a investigation by the Oregon Labor Bureau is still ongoing.

Sources: ThinkProgress, Portland Tribune