By JOHN FORTMEYER
GRESHAM — Months of opposition to a Christian couple from those in favor of gay marriage have forced that couple to shut down their retail business here, and the whole controversy continues to draw extensive national media attention.
Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, recently closed their storefront at 44 N. Division St. and will operate the business out of their home.
The closure received huge coverage from both secular and Christian media. Aaron Klein told Todd Starnes, a commentator on religious freedom issues for FOX News, that “mob tactics” by the pro-homosexual rights community were the reason for the shutdown.
Last January, the Kleins first made headlines when they refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. That couple recently filed an anti-discrimination complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries against the Kleins for allegedly refusing service based on sexual orientation.
Klein cited his and his wife’s biblical belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
The Kleins also maintain that the U.S. Constitution protects them from being forced to participate in something that violates their conscience and religious beliefs.
In his interview with Starnes, Klein reiterated that he and his family have received death threats and that pro-homosexual forces threatened to boycott any florists, wedding planners or other vendors that did business with Sweet Cakes By Melissa.
The Kleins have five children. He said he has taken another full-time job to pay the family bills.
After the initial publicity in January, the bakery saw a short-term surge in business as people came from throughout the Northwest to show their agreement with the Kleins through their purchase of baked goods.
But it wasn’t enough to sustain the storefront. Klein told Christian News Northwest that the tough economy in general had already been affecting the bakery, and that the stiff opposition was simply “the final nail in the coffin.”
By law, the state agency must complete within a year an investigation in response to the complaint by the same-sex couple, Laurel Bowman and Rachel Cryer.
If investigators find substantial evidence, the bureau may bring formal charges if parties cannot reach a settlement through conciliation. The state labor commissioner could respond by issuing cease and desist orders, awarding both economic and non-economic damages and assessing civil penalties for violations of civil rights law.
Klein said the bakery, even though it will now be operated out of a home, remains subject to the state proceeding. Should that legal process ultimately have to be taken to higher levels — including even all the way the U.S. Supreme Court, Klein remains resolved to defend the conscience rights of private business,
“Absolutely,” he said. “This is God’s fight.”