Aaron Klein, owner of Sweet Cakes, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon, refused service to a gay couple on January 17, 2013, and according to him, this wasn’t the first time.
As a person who believes each of us should be kind, considerate, and accepting of others despite our differences, I am obviously disappointed and saddened that Mr. Klein would act in such a manner.
Two topics of discussion have emerged as a result of Mr. Klein’s actions: 1) whether or not he was breaking the law (see KATU’s “Did a baker break the law when he denied service to same-sex couple?”) and 2) whether or not it’s okay for a business owner to use his own beliefs as an excuse to deny service.
To start off: Yes, it is against Oregon law (The Oregon Equality Act of 2007) to discriminate based on sexual orientation, which is exactly what Mr. Klein did.
But I actually want to move past the legality discussion of what happened because I think we, as adults, make situations such as this too complicated. We forget the most basic and important things in life. And I think focusing on the legality of it as a way of either justifying or condemning Mr. Klein’s actions isn’t what’s important. What we need to remember is that two human beings wanted to buy a cake from a local business. That’s all. And these human beings could very well have been your relatives or friends. They could very well be you. You or someone you care about could have been embarrassed publicly and told you were a lesser human being, not deserving to purchase a cake at a local bakery.
How would you feel if someone you love went to buy a cake and then were told they couldn’t because the business owner doesn’t approve of them? Is it okay if the refusal of service is because they’re gay (maybe because we don’t have full federal LGBT equality, some view the gay community as an okay target of discrimination)? What if a couple was denied service because they’re interracial? What if a non-Christian wanted to buy a cake? What other types of customers don’t meet Mr. Klein’s religious standards? The Bible’s a big book, so no doubt there have to be countless numbers of people he wouldn’t feel right serving. Does our opinion change when we take the time to consider how we would feel if discriminated against? Or are some of us incapable considering such a scenario because we have never faced such discrimination?
I wonder how Mr. Klein will know whom he should and shouldn’t serve based on his religious convictions. Should he create a questionnaire to make sure that every potential customer aligns with every single one of his opinions?
I am troubled by Mr. Klein’s actions, and I am saddened that, in his mind, he has taken some great stand against the “abomination” of homosexuality. Anti-gay Mr. Klein who refuses to bake a cake for a gay couple is just the same as a Mr. Klein from fifty years ago who would have used the exact same religious arguments to refuse service to an interracial couple.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrea Free is a freelance writer and co-creator of the Facebook page Gay Marriage Oregon and creator of the website for Oregon Marriage Equality. She has an MA in English from Bowling Green State University as well as a graduate certificate in International Scientific and Technical Communication. She completed her undergraduate work at Oregon State University, majoring in Liberal Studies with minors in writing and anthropology. As a gay rights advocate, she hopes to write articles that will inspire others to create a positive change.