I know we’ve been running a lot about bakers of wedding cakes, gay customers and court cases, but I wanted to draw your attention to a related case I've written about that’s been dragging through Oregon’s legal system for the past few years.
It’s the “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” case that began when a chance comment from a baker infuriated two lesbians to where they filed a lawsuit alleging all sorts of emotional harm. Oregon’s labor commissioner, who’s never hid his LGBTQ-friendly sentiments, slammed the bakers with a $135,000 fine that the defendants are still fighting to this day.
It’s become a running sore of a case to both sides of the argument. After the Oregonian ran the latest news on an appeals court verdict, there were 4,413 comments attached to it by the time I saw the piece several days later. Obviously there’s lots of strong feelings about this case on both sides.
The Oregon Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a decision by Oregon's labor commissioner that forced two Gresham bakers to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple for whom the bakers refused to make a wedding cake.
Melissa and Aaron Klein made national headlines in 2013 when they refused to bake a cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, citing their Christian beliefs. The Bowman-Cryers complained to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, saying they had been refused service because of their sexual orientation.
An administrative law judge ruled that the Kleins' bakery, Sweetcakes by Melissa, violated a law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in places that serve the public. Brad Avakian, the state labor commissioner, affirmed heavy damages against the Kleins for the Bowman-Cryer's emotional and mental distress.
The Oregonian knew all about the latter, as it had run a nearly 4,300-word piece in August 2016 about the two women with the headline: “The hate keeps coming: The pain lingers for lesbian couple denied in Sweet Cakes case.” It went into great detail.
But why wasn’t there similar treatment accorded the Kleins?
Where was the zillion-word piece that talked about their ruined business and the fact that Aaron Klein had to become a garbage man to make ends meet? If media were going to give the Bowman-Cryers the star treatment, they owed the Kleins’ side the same. Perhaps this is another case in which editors have decided that a story only has one side?
In terms of the how the “hate keeps coming,” has anyone seen the pornographic videos placed on the Kleins’ Facebook page lately? Yes, I read that the Kleins turned down requests for interviews by the Oregonian; a ridiculous decision.
I wonder, though, if the Kleins –- or their lawyer –- had seen the Oregonian’s coverage up until then and figured they’d get a hit piece. After all, they talked with outlets like The Daily Signal, so they were open to some media, but not others.
During part of the time the case has been in court, the Oregonian had on staff Melissa Binder, a reporter known for accurate, balanced profiles of religious people. As far as I know, she was never allowed near that story. Why?
Anyway, back to the recent piece about the appeals court ruling and why I’m writing about it today. The Oregonian continues:
The decision will likely be the most controversial ruling, and the one with the biggest impact, handed down by Avakian during his nearly 10 years in the role. He has decided not to seek re-election when his term expires next year.
Unfortunately, the article didn’t go into more detail about Avakian, so I had to turn to CNN to get more of the story. In a piece headlined “Oregon official who shuts down Christian bakery loses election:”
Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who came to national attention for heftily fining a local bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, lost. Avakian, a champion of the LGBTQ community, was running for Secretary of State.
As labor commissioner since 2008, Avakian often made news for his tough calls against businesses discriminating against gay and transgender customers…
The piece describes the Sweet Cakes case, then adds:
Avakian was also responsible for slamming a $400,000 fine on a Portland bar owner who refused service to transgender customers, according to the Oregon Live.
In his bid for Secretary of State, Avakian promised a push for "progressive values" like wage equality and reproductive freedoms. His conservative opponent promised to adhere to the position's basic, more traditional roles, like auditing public records and officiating elections.
In the end, the opponent, Dennis Richardson won 48% of the popular vote, beating Avakian by nearly 100,000 votes. The victory makes Richardson the first Republican to win a statewide office in Oregon since 2002.
Whoa, there. Even though Hillary Clinton won Oregon’s seven electoral votes in the general election, Oregonians turned against Avakian in the statewide races. Who were these people and did the Sweet Cakes case infuriate them to the point where they refused to vote for the guy who levied the huge fine?
The Oregonian only cryptically referred to Avakian’s frustration with the whole Sweet Cakes matter but that was before he lost the secretary of state election. The Weekly Standard got closer to the truth by explaining how running solely on one’s social liberalism credentials is a losing proposition even in blue-state Oregon.
About this Oregonian piece about the appeals court decision that elicits more than 4,000 comments:There’s something huge going on here; something that I don’t think any of the Oregon outlets covering this case quite comprehend.
There’s an interest, a passion, an outrage. I think the outrage on one side of the equation has been well documented. But what about the other side? Are we talking about the same outrage that got President Trump elected a year ago?
Because the decision came out just after Christmas, some media are just catching up to the news. ThinkProgress, albeit not the most objective outlet around, at least included more details on the reasoning behind the judges’ decision and why the appeals court decided not to wait until the Supreme Court rules on the similar Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
The Kleins have announced on their Facebook page that they will be appealing the case to the Oregon Supreme Court. Since this case is not going away, I’m hoping more media will take a serious look at this case; will actually profile the Kleins and look at the rage on their side of the aisle.
Because believe me, it’s out there.