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Christian Bakery Shuts Down After Refusal to Serve Gay Wedding Creates Firestorm

ICC Note: A Christian run bakery in Oregon has closed down after owners faced a large downturn in business and a lawsuit for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. The couple who own the bakery decided to move the business back into their home, saying they have faced much harassment for their decision to refuse service, which was based on their Christian beliefs. A 2007 law in Oregon makes it illegal for businesses to refuse service on the basis of sexual orientation and provides no exceptions for religious beliefs.

9/2/2013 United States (KATU) - 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."

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