The collision of religious liberty and gay rights in Oregon Jul 20, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 42 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
"They have good days and bad days, but I will tell you they are resolute,” attorney Herb Grey says of his clients, Aaron and Melissa Klein, two bakers from Portland who are facing a $135,000 fine from the state of Oregon for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian commitment ceremony in January 2013. “They know that today it’s them, but that there’s nothing they can do to escape from it, and they’re willing to stand up, knowing what the potential implications are for other people.”
It’s safe to say that July 2 was not one of the Kleins’ better days. Brad Avakian, a commissioner with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), issued a ruling that upheld the $135,000 fine for violating state public accommodation laws suggested by an administrative judge in April. The couple were told to pay the fine by July 13 or the state would place a lien on their home. Not only that, but Avakian added an astonishing wrinkle. He issued a gag order that effectively prevents the couple from saying much of anything about the case: “The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries hereby orders Respondents Aaron and Melissa Klein to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published . . . any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations . . . will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination will be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation.”
The state insists that this is not a gag order, that it narrowly restricts what the Kleins may say about who they will serve. (Their bakery, Sweetcakes By Melissa, was shuttered in 2013 thanks to negative publicity surrounding the case, though the couple are trying to keep their business alive online.) But according to Grey, who is one of three lawyers working with the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom to represent the Kleins, the couple have never stated an intention to discriminate, only stated why they took the stand they did in the instance that got them into trouble. Besides, the Kleins have no problem serving gay customers. They had previously served the lesbian woman who filed the complaint against them. They simply decline to make cakes for same-sex weddings, since to do so, in their view, would betray their Christian conscience.
This didn’t stop Avakian, in the July 2 ruling, from citing the following statements by the Kleins as proclaiming their intention to discriminate:
I didn’t want to be a part of her marriage, which I think is wrong.
I am who I am and I want to live my life the way I want to live my life and, you know, I choose to serve God.
It’s one of those things where you never want to see something you’ve put so much work into go belly up, but on the other hand, I have faith in the Lord and he’s taken care of us up to this point and I’m sure he will in the future.
We will continue to stand strong. Your religious freedom is becoming not free anymore. This is ridiculous that we cannot practice our faith. The Lord is good and we will continue to serve Him with all our heart.
Another statement that Avakian singles out seems more clear cut: “We don’t do same-sex marriage, same-sex wedding cakes.” Yet even here, Avakian is being willfully obtuse. The transcript of the radio interview in which Aaron Klein said this shows that he was merely recounting what he told the customer at the time he declined to bake her cake, not announcing his future intentions.
“The way we look at it, and if you put it in First Amendment terms, if you don’t know where the line is drawn, you don’t know how close you can get to it, which means that you tend to engage in less speech to try to stay away from going over the line,” says Grey. “Our perception was that it was in fact a gag order that basically limited us from talking about the case really at all. . . . [The Kleins] don’t know what might trigger a future violation and further complaints and further action by the commissioner.”
The hefty fine and the gag order are hardly the only outrageous things about Avakian’s decree. On page 34, the ruling reads, “In addition to any emotional suffering experienced by Complainants as a direct result of Sweetcakes’ refusal to bake them a cake (‘denial of service’), the agency also seeks damages for suffering caused to the Complainants by media publicity and social media response to this case.”
12:36 AM, Jul 3, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
In April, an administrative judge with the Oregon Department of Labor ordered Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of the now shuttered bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, to pay a fine of $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple's wedding. While there's a case the couple violated the state's public accommodation laws, there's little doubt that the fine was excessive and the reasoning for it specious.
1:36 PM, Jun 17, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The New York Times has an alarming article today about the movement to push sex change operations at earlier and earlier ages. It contains this detail:
Advocates say that extending treatment to teenagers will alleviate depression and suicide. With that in mind, Oregon’s Medicaid began covering the gamut of treatment, regardless of age, in January. Patients as young as 15 do not need parental consent.
May 11, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 33 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
In January 2013, Rachel Cryer and her mother walked into Sweet Cakes By Melissa, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon, and tried to order a wedding cake. Aaron Klein, the co-owner (and Melissa’s husband), was informed Cryer would be marrying another woman. He apologized and told them that providing a cake for a same-sex wedding violated his Christian convictions. Cryer walked out of the store.
7:27 PM, Feb 4, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The Oregonian, the biggest paper in the state, is calling for the resignation of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber as a result of shady dealings related to his longtime girlfriend and fiancée:
More ugliness may surface, but it should be clear by now to Kitzhaber that his credibility has evaporated to such a degree that he can no longer serve effectively as governor. If he wants to serve his constituents he should resign.
9:17 AM, Jan 6, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
While college football fans were riveted to the two playoff games on New Year’s Day (make that one-and-a-half playoff games, as the second half of the Rose Bowl was hardly must-see T.V.), some commentators could hardly wait to seize the moment to criticize the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), college football’s previous format for determining its national champion.
Hosted by Michael Graham.11:38 AM, Jan 2, 2015 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on the new year, the College Football Playoff, Foreign Policy, and Politics.
After an audit finds Portland inflated its streetcar stats, a legendary loudmouth suddenly clams up.1:33 PM, Dec 16, 2014 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Portland, Oregon, city commissioner Steve Novick is nothing if not verbose.
By 60 to 23 percent margin, fans said they would rather entrust the BCS than a committee. 6:04 PM, Dec 7, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Most college football fans are happy that the sport has adopted a 4-team playoff. The method of selecting those four teams, however, is another matter. This past offseason, McLaughlin & Associates asked self-described college football fans this question: “As you may know, college football will have a 4-team playoff starting next season.
5:05 PM, Aug 11, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The campaign of Democratic senator Jeff Merkley turned away three people from a "private event" in Hillsboro, Oregon, despite the fact that the people said they were invited to the event. A tracker with the campaign of Merkley's Republican opponent, Monica Wehby, captured the exchange between the three people and a representative of the Merkley campaign. Watch it below:
The astounding waste, corruption, and self-dealing of university student governments Aug 11, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 45 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
For anyone who follows national politics, there is no shortage of scandals and harrowing economic figures to buttress the opinion that our leadership is corrupt and incompetent. My own pessimism about government, however, is born of experience. I was foolish once and young; I even believed in The System. That was before I spent time in student government, a corner of campus life that is directly responsible for accelerating the degradation of our broader political culture. If, as P. J.
2:50 PM, May 20, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Monica Wehby is on track to win today's Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Oregon, and Democrats are already unloading on her as she prepares to face off against incumbent Jeff Merkley in the fall. Last Friday, a Politico article described a police report filed last year that alleged Wehby, a divorced mother, had been "stalking" and "harassing" an ex-boyfriend, local businessman Andrew Miller.
1:13 PM, May 15, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Monica Wehby, a Republican candidate for Senate in Oregon, leads her primary opponent Jason Conger by 17 points in a new poll by a GOP polling group supporting Wehby. New Republican, which has been running TV ads on Wehby's behalf, polled 500 likely primary voters in Oregon and found 41 percent support Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon and first-time candidate, while 24 percent support state senator Jason Conger.