The state of Oregon has launched a discrimination investigation against a family bakery owned by Christians who refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.
The Bureau of Labor and Industries will investigate whether Sweet Cakes by Melissa violated a 2007 law that protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Aaron and Melissa Klein told Fox News they turned down requests to bake cakes for gay weddings because it goes against the Christian faith and their right to religious freedom.
“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” Klein said. “I don’t want to help somebody celebrate a commitment to a lifetime of sin.”
The 2007 Oregon law provides an exemption for religious organizations and religious schools but does not allow private business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian told The Oregonian he is committed to a fair and thorough investigation to determine whether the bakery discriminated against the lesbians.
“Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that folks have the right to discriminate,” he told the newspaper.
Last January, the bakery made national headlines when it refused to bake a cake for the lesbian couple. The couple eventually filed a discrimination complaint with the labor bureau.
Klein said they have nothing against homosexuals – but because of their religious faith they simply cannot take part in gay wedding events.
Their decision has been costly.
Gay rights groups have launched boycotts and pickets against the family-owned business. The LGBT community has also threatened wedding vendors who do business with the Kleins.
“They’re trying to shut us down and they have completely alienated us from our wedding vendors,” he said. “They have killed our business through mob tactics.”
Klein said he’s had to take a fulltime job hauling garbage just to pay the bills and feed his five children.
“Between the LGBT community doing what they’ve done and now what the state is doing, it’s hurt our business,” he told Fox News.
Klein said his family has also been subjected to death threats.
“I’ve gotten almost a dozen death threats,” he said. “They said they hope my kids get sick and die.”
In spite of the violent threats and protests, Klein said they are standing firm.
“We are not called to take the easy way out as Christians,” he said. “We’re called to stand for truth.”
He said what’s happening to their small business should be a warning to other Christians around the country.
“This is a fight that’s been coming for a while,” he said. “Be prepared to take a stand. Hopefully, the church will wake up and understand that we are under attack right now.”
Should the Kleins be found guilty of violating state law, they could face $50,000 in fines and penalties. It would spell the end of Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
“If we lose, I guess the business goes under,” he said. “It’s a small price to pay for standing for truth and traditional marriage.”
Avakian told The Oregonian a guilty verdict would not necessarily mean the end of their business.
“The goal is never to shut down a business,” he said. “The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon.”