Lesbian couple denied wedding cake by Oregon baker Aaron Klein

Hilary Hagerman
Shine On

An Oregon baker is under fire after refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple – and now he could face legal action.

As first reported by KATU, one of the brides-to-be filed a complaint on Jan. 28 which claims that Aaron Klein, the owner of Sweet Cakes Bakery in Gresham, Oregon said he couldn’t sell a cake to the lesbian couple because they were “abominations to the lord.” The woman said she had previously bought a cake from Sweet Cakes for her mother’s wedding with no problem.

While Klein denies making the harsh statement, he did admit that he turned the woman away when she came into his store on Jan. 17.

“I apologized for wasting their time and said we don’t do same-sex marriages,” he tells KATU. “I honestly did not mean to hurt anybody, didn’t mean to upset anybody, (it’s) just something I believe in very strongly.”

However, his beliefs aren’t enough to cover him under state law.

The Oregon Equality Act of 2007 prohibits discrimination against people based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. The statute includes public accommodations, such as businesses.

But Klein says the importance of his religious beliefs outweigh the law.

“If I have to be to, I guess, be penalized for my beliefs, then I guess, well, that’ll be what it is,” he tells KATU. “My First Amendment rights allow me to practice my religion as I see it.”

Yet as it stands, freedom of religious beliefs doesn't trump The Oregon Equality Act.

The woman who filed the lawsuit says she won’t make a statement until she receives further legal advice, but her partner Laura Bowman says she was “reduced to tears.”

This isn’t the first time a same-sex couple has been turned away because of a business owner’s beliefs.

In 2011, an Iowa baker faced criticism after refusing to serve a lesbian couple at their pre-wedding tasting. Victoria Childress also cited her religious beliefs and freedom of speech as justification.

“I didn’t do the cake because of my convictions for their lifestyle. It is my right as a business owner,” she tells KCII.

Last year, Jack Phillips, the owner of Mastermind Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado said his shop experienced a spike in business after he turned away a gay couple.

“I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, so you could say this is a religious belief,” Phillips tells KDVR in July. “I believe the Bible teaches that (homosexuality) is not an okay thing.”

And it's not just cake shops turning away same-sex couples.

Here in Canada, a rental consultant freely admitted she denied a gay couple a basement apartment in Brampton last July because the landlord opposed their sexual orientation. The Ontario Human Rights Commission states that a tenant can not be refused an apartment because of marital status, including those with a same-sex partner.

In a similar case, a human rights tribunal ordered that a gay couple receive $4,400 in compensation after being turned away from a British Columbia bed and breakfast in 2009 because the owners were evangelical Christians.