GRESHAM, Ore. - A couple who run a bakery and have come under fire for their decision not to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple took some time on Monday to explain their stance.
Aaron and Melissa Klein just recently moved their business, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, from a Gresham storefront back into their home, where they had originally started the venture.
They said their business has taken more than a 50 percent hit since January, when Aaron Klein refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple based on his religious beliefs.
Once word got out, the story quickly made national headlines. At issue is whether the business violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007. Oregon law does not allow businesses to deny service based on sexual orientation. There is an exemption for religious organizations and schools, but private businesses cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, sex, age, veteran status, disability or religion.
"Discrimination is really the wrong terminology for what took place," Aaron said. "I didn't want to be a part of her marriage, which I think is wrong."
One of the women who was refused service filed a complaint with Oregon's Bureau of Labor & Industries, which is looking into the matter.
"We are committed to a fair and thorough investigation to determine whether there is substantial evidence of unlawful discrimination," said state labor commissioner Brad Avakian.
We also spoke to the attorney for the couple who filed the complaint to get his thoughts on all of this, but he is not talking, at least not at this point.
In the meantime, the Kleins have found themselves in the middle of a firestorm over their decision. On one side, there are supporters who feel the couple had a right to make that type of decision. On the other side are those who feel the Kleins violated the law by discriminating against the same-sex couple.
The Kleins said they have been feeling the heat from those who have been protesting over this. They said not only has this affected their business, but it's taken a sinister turn as well.
"There's a lot of close-minded people out there that would like to pretend to be very tolerant and just want equal rights," Aaron said. "But on the other hand, they've been very, very mean-spirited. They've been militant. The best way I can describe it is they've used mafia tactics against the business. Basically, if you do business with Sweet Cakes, we will shut you down."
The Kleins cited a break-in to their bakery truck as one example of what's been happening to them. They said it was ransacked Sunday evening. We checked with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and learned there was a report filed, but no one has been apprehended.
They also said critics harassed their vendors to the point that vendors would no longer refer customers, which led to their income dropping off dramatically.
Still, despite everything, the Kleins remain optimistic and stand by their beliefs.
"It took a lot of years for me to build up what I built up," Melissa said. It's been hard, but I don't know, I've kind of also been at peace with it because I am who I am and I want to live my life the way I want to live my life. I choose to serve God and I believe in the Bible. And I believe what it says and I want to live by that."
"I don't want to shove it down anyone else's throat or anything like that," she added. "I would hope to have the same respect, you know, that things don't have to be shoved on me and force me to do something I don't want to do."
"I hope that if nothing else, we've given people that believe the way we believe the strength to stand up," said Aaron. "I believe that we're living in a time that's very hostile towards Christians. Our First Amendment rights are being stripped away and I'm willing to stand up and take this fight."
The Kleins said while there have been plenty of people against them, there have also been plenty of people on their side.
"The support the people have sent us means a lot and it's very encouraging, the things that people send us," said Melissa. "We really appreciate it, so I would love people to know that - from everywhere - thank you so much."
Watch the Raw Interview with the Kleins
In May, a lesbian couple wanted to order a wedding cake from Fleur Cakes in Hood River, but the owner refused, citing her religious beliefs. Watch the story:
This past week, a Portland bar owner was ordered to pay $400,000 to a group of cross-dressers he banned from his club last year. The penalty was actually the first to be imposed under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which we mentioned previously in this article. Watch the story:
And Washington's attorney general is suing Richland florist Baronelle Stutzman for violating the state's anti-discrimination laws because she refused to fill an order of flowers for a same-sex wedding. Stutzman has counter-sued, claiming the state is violating her religious freedom.