GRESHAM, Ore. (KPTV) — A wedding cake, or lack of one, for a same-sex couple is at the center of a state discrimination investigation.
The Portland-area couple filed an anti-decimation complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries against ‘Sweet Cakes by Melissa’ in Gresham.
The complaint, filed by Rachel Cryer and received by the bureau Aug. 8, contends she was refused service based on sexual orientation.
A similar case occurred in Washington state, where Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against a Richland florist shop, Arlene’s Flowers, for refusing to provide flowers at the wedding of a gay couple. Robert Ingersoll, who’d been a customer for nine years, was turned down because of the owner’s religious beliefs, which the state says violates the Consumer Protection Act.refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. That case has not been scheduled for trial yet.
The Oregon bakery’s decision also made national headlines when an initial complaint was filed with the Oregon Department of Justice by Laurel Bowman against the business in January.
The initial complaint alleged one of the owners of Sweet Cakes, after learning the customers wanted a cake for a same-sex wedding, said they were “abominations unto the lord” and Bowman’s fiancé was “reduced to tears.”
In February, owner Aaron Klein denied making those statements. However, he did admit turning down the couple’s business for religious reasons.
“I stopped what I was doing, I looked at them and said, ‘I’m sorry I may have wasted your time, we don’t do same-sex marriages,’” he told Fox 12 in February.
The new Bureau of Labor and Industries complaint states that Klein asked for the names of the bride and groom and was told, “there are two brides and our names are Rachel and Laurel.”
“Respondent then told me that they do not provide their services for same-sex weddings,” citing religious beliefs, according to the complaint.
While Oregon law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, Klein believes the U.S. Constitution protects him. He said business picked up after the story went viral, but also stressed his decision wasn’t about publicity.
“I’m free to exercise my religion however I see fit. I should not be compelled to violate my conscience,” he said earlier this year. “If I’m told I have to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage, I feel that I’m violating my beliefs. I don’t think I should have to do that.”
The Bureau of Labor and Industries will now decide if the bakery violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007.
Melissa Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa declined to comment Wednesday on the complaint or the investigation.
Stutzman and her longtime business are being sued by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson for refusing to provide flowers at the wedding of a gay couple. Robert Ingersoll, who’d been a customer for nine years, was turned down by Stutzman because of her religious beliefs, which the state says violates the Consumer Protection Act.
BOLI investigations are required to conclude within a year. If investigators find substantial evidence, the bureau may bring formal charges against Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Those involved could also reach a settlement through conciliation, according to the bureau.
“We are committed to a fair, through investigation,” said Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian.
The couple filing the complaint ended up getting a wedding cake from another local bakery, Pastrygirl. Food Network star Duff Goldman also offered to bake and transport a cake to Portland for them, which the couple accepted in February, according to a statement released by their attorney at the time.
That attorney declined to comment on the case Wednesday.