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Same-sex marriage (SSM) and domestic partnerships in Oregon.

Part 3: 2013: Bakery faces charge for human
rights discrimination. Lawsuit to legalize
SSM in federal court. Oregon to recognize
out-of-state SSMs. Video of Bar Mitzvah speech
goes viral. Signature drive for 2014 referendum.
Second lawsuit to legalize SSM launched.
Current status of SSM in Oregon.

Sponsored link.


This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2013-FEB-04: Owner of Oregon bakery refuses to bake wedding cake for same-sex couple:

It seems that whenever a state legalizes SSMs, there is one -- perhaps two -- stories like the following where a same-sex wedding-related business violates the state's human rights laws because of the religious beliefs of the business owner. This case in Oregon is special, because it happened when the state has not yet legalized same-sex marriages.

Aaron Klein, co-owner of the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery refused on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman. The couple was apparently getting married in another state where SSM is legal. In doing so, Klein violated the human rights laws of Oregon. 14 Section 659A.403 of that law states:

"Discrimination in place of public accommodation prohibited: ... all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of [their] race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is 18 years or older."

A term "public accommodation" includes any business who sell products or service to the general public. The couple complained to the Department of Justice who sent the baker a letter.

An article in the Huffington Post about this incident received 2,377 comments! One comment from a competitor, Charm City Cakes, offered to make a cake for the lesbian couple without charge. Another pointed out that the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery owner had a tattoo on his arm that is forbidden by a passage in the Bible's book of Leviticus. 14

Almost a year later, officials of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries -- who administer the human rights legislation in the state -- ruled that the bakery's denial of service to a customer violated the couple's civil rights. Co-owner Aaron Kline responded:

"We still stand by what we believe from the beginning. I’m not sure what future holds, but as far as where we’re at right now ... it’s almost as if the state is hostile toward Christian businesses." 15

His speculation does not seem to be accurate. The Bureau is apparently hostile towards any business that discriminates against customers on the basis of the latter's race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. We see no evidence that the Bureau has singled out Christians for special treatment.

The Bureau issued a statement, saying:

"Under Oregon law, Oregonians may not be denied service based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law provides an exemption for religious organizations and schools, but does not allow private business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot legally deny service based on race, sex, age, disability or religion." 15

Two women protested the bakery owners position. They stood in front of the bakery and gave away free cupcakes. Their signs read: "Tolerance is sweet." and "Don't hate, let them eat cake." One of the protestors, Rachel Oleson, said:

We just thought that was really hurtful and we feel like we should be out here taking a stand. We’re not going to go along with that type of hate."

We didn't have the time to grind through all 2,377 comments in the Huffington Post article. However, none of the comments that we did read commented on the obvious violation by the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery owners of the Ethic of Reciprocity. This is called the "Golden Rule" in Christianity, but all of the other major religions of the world have a similar rule of behavior. It says that one must treat other people -- store customers in this case -- as one would want to other people to treat them. Two biblical passages that quote the words of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) are:

  • "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.

  • "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.

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2013-OCT-15: Two same-sex couples launch federal lawsuit to legalize SSM in Oregon:

A complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in Eugene by Portland attorneys Lake Perriguey and Lea Ann Easton on behalf of two same-sex couples. One couple, Deanna Geiger and Janine Nelson, is seeking a declaration by the court that Measure 36 is unconstitutional. This was a 2004 amendment to Oregon's Constitution that restricted marriage to one woman and one man. A second couple, Robert Deuhmig and William Griesar were legally married in Vancouver, BC, Canada and wish to have their marriage recognized in Oregon.

Gov. John Kitzhaber and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum are listed as defendants.

Measure 36 was earlier challenged in state court. However, an appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court was rejected because Measure 36 violates the U.S. Constitution and thus is a matter for federal courts to consider.

Perriguey said:

"We would like a federal district judge in Oregon to find that there is no rational, legitimate or compelling governmental interest that would allow Oregon's anti-gay constitutional amendment to stand. It will not withstand constitutional scrutiny."

Apparently referring to the proposed United for Marriage referendum in 2014, and this lawsuit in federal court, Perriguey said:

"I believe that securing equal access to marriage in Oregon through a popularity contest or through a federal [court] decision will advance marriage equality nationwide. There’s nothing guaranteeing a vote will come out in our favor, and there's no guarantee that a legal opinion will come out in our favor. But we're very optimistic."

Spokeswoman Amy Ruiz of Oregon United for Marriage who are sponsoring the plebiscite said:

"We share the same goal as the plaintiffs in this case: to make marriage legal for all loving and committed couples in Oregon. No one should be denied the freedom to marry the person they love." 11

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2013-OCT-16: Oregon to recognize legal out-of-state same-sex marriages!:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon wrote:

"On October 16, 2013, the Deputy Attorney General for the state of Oregon issued a legal opinion that the State could begin to respect the marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states, because refusing to do so would likely be unconstitutional after the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. The next day, the Chief Operating Officer for the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, Michael Jordan, directed all state agencies immediately to recognize all marriages performed outside of Oregon, including marriages of same-sex couples." 13

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2013-NOV-09: Duncan McAlpine Sennett delivers Bar Mitzvah speech:

Duncan Sennett became a Bar Mitzvah of Congregation Beth Israel in Portland, OR, a reform congregation. This is a very important rite of passage for each Jewish male at the age of 13. A similar rite, the Bat Mitzvah, is held for 12-year-old girls. They are expected to give a speech of D'var Torah that links the text of the Hebrew Scriptures to "their own lives and passions:" Duncan chose the topic of how marriage has changed over the thousands of years between the time that the Torah was written and the present time. 8

  8

The video has gone viral, with 190,333 viewings by 2014-MAR-05. It received 1,781 positive and 74 negative reviews.

You Tube provides a transcript of the speech which have been automatically translated from the sound track. The results are quite amusing. For example:

  • "... since the days of the Torah just looking at my Torah portion as a proof text ...

became:

  • "... since the days of the tower just looking at my door portion as a proof text ... "

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2013-NOV-19: Oregon United for Marriage is close to the end of their signature drive:

116,284 valid signatures are required on a petition to place a referendum on the 2014-NOV-04 ballot. It would legalize SSM in the state, while guaranteeing that faith groups could continue to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them. Oregon United has collected 115,080 signature to date -- 99% of the minimum needed. Agencies promoting citizen initiatives typically try to collect additional signatures well above the minimum required, in the event that some of the signatures are disallowed as invalid.

Oregon United received a $280,000 donation from Nike to support the initiative. 7

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2013-NOV-21: Current status of same-sex marriage in Oregon:

The Oregon Family Council (OFC) is a state-wide conservative Christian organization that played the principal role in promoting the 2004 constitutional amendment that:

  • Prohibits same-sex marriages being solemnized within Oregon.

  • Initially prohibited same-sex marriages which were legally solemnized elsewhere from being recognized in Oregon. Washington state to the North of Oregon, California to the South and Hawaii to the West now allow same-sex marriage, and so are primary sites for destination weddings by same-sex couples in Oregon. However, when the married couple returned to Oregon, the state did not recognize their wedding.

    On 2013-OCT-16, as noted above, Oregon's Deputy Attorney General issued a legal opinion that the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case United States v. Windsor on JUN-26 likely made it compulsory for the State to recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. If Oregon refused to recognize such weddings, their action would likely be found to be in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

For Oregon same-sex couples. getting married and having their marriage recognized in Oregon has shifted from an impossibility to the relatively minor inconvenience of having to cross the state's northern, southern, or western border, get married, and then return home. That is a BIG change. However, same-sex couples still cannot get married in Oregon, and thus the state has not become the 18th political jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage.

The battle over same-sex marriage in Oregon has lost much of its punch. It used to be about whether to recognize loving, committed same-sex couples as first class citizens who are able to marry. It now has become a conflict as to whether to simplify the process of marriage for same-sex couples by not requiring them to drive to the next state to get married.

This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Matt Baume, "Last Minute Legislation," Marriage News Watch, American Foundation for Equal Rights, 2012-DEC-17, at http://youtu.be/ The chart is located at 1:19 into the video.
  2. Harry Esteve, "Oregon May Be Next State For Gay Marriage Ballot Battle," Religion News Service, 2012-NOV-11, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  3. John Darling, "Lawmakers eye 2014 ballot measure for gay marriage," Ashland Daily Tidings, 2012-NOV-15.
  4. "We are committed to winning the freedom to marry," Basic Rights Oregon, 2011-NOV-09, at: http://www.basicrights.org/
  5. Peter Wong, "Oregon Family Council responds to Basic Rights Oregon," Stateman Journal, 2011-NOV-10, at: http://community.statesmanjournal.com/
  6. Adam Polaski, "Oregon will honor marriages of same-sex couples who legally marry out of state," Freedom to Marry, 2013-OCT-17, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/
  7. Amy Ruiz, "Nike Steps Up to Lead with $280,000 to Support Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative," Oregon United for Marriage, 2013-NOV-19, at: http://www.oregonunitedformarriage.org/
  8. "Duncan's Bar Mitzvah -- A call for freedom to marry," You Tube, video made on 2013-NOV-09, at: https://www.youtube.com/
  9. Matthew Brown, "Oregon religious freedom group counters gay marriage ballot proposal," Deseret News, 2013-NOV-27, at: http://www.deseretnews.com/
  10. Andrea Damewood, "Gay Couples File Federal Suit To Overturn Oregon Ban on Same-Sex Marriage," Willamette Week, 2013-OCT-15, at: http://www.wweek.com/
  11. Erica Nochlin, et al., "Lawsuit filed to overturn Oregon's same-sex marriage ban," KATU News, 2013-OCT-16, at: http://www.katu.com/
  12. Christian Gaston, "Two more couples file suit against Oregon's ban on gay marriage," The Oregonian, 2013-DEC-19. at: http://www.oregonlive.com/
  13. "Complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief," Rummell et al. v. Kitzhaber et al, United States District Court, District of Oregon, Eugene Division, 2013-DEC-19, at: http://aclu-or.org/
  14. "Oregon Bakery Owner Aaron Klein Denies Lesbian Couple A Wedding Cake," Huffington Post, 2013-FEB-04, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  15. " 'We still stand by what we believe.' Bakers who refused to make a gay wedding cake double down despite ruling they violated couple's civil rights," The Blaze, 2014-JAN-20, at: http://www.theblaze.com/

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Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Oregon > here

Copyright © 2012 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-DEC-17
Latest update: 2014-MAR-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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