Same-sex marriage (SSM) and
domestic partnerships in Oregon.
Part 11: 2014-MAY:
NOM refused a stay by the High Court.
Oregon Family Council initiative to
Same-sex marriage appears secure
the future in Oregon.
2017: Sweetcakes by Melissa case drags on.
2014-MAY-27: National Organization for Marriage (NOM) makes one last appeal (Cont'd):
As described in the previous essay, NOM petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court. They requested a stay of the District Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. The Court rejected the request.
Oregon Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum (D), said:
"Today’s ruling, which, notably, came from the full United States Supreme Court, allows the celebrations of marriages of same-sex couples in Oregon to continue without interruption." 1
NOM's Chairperson, John Eastman, was disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision. However, NOM still has an active appeal with the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals asking that they be given standing that would allow them to appeal the District Court's ruling. Eastman said:
"We will continue to press this case because we believe that the people of Oregon are entitled to a vigorous defense of marriage, and because it is in the public interest to preserve marriage as a union of one man and one woman." 2
His statement is somewhat ambiguous. Nobody is promoting the idea that opposite-sex couples not be allowed to marry. What is currently under debate in 31 states is whether same-sex couples should also be allowed to marry.
Some conservative Christians in Oregon are no longer opposing marriage equality:
Willamette Week noted that some evangelical leaders seem to have withdrawn from actively opposing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community (LGBT).
They noted that:
- In 2007, three years after the voters approved a ban on SSM in the Oregon Constitution, Ira Glass visited Portland, OR on a book tour. He is the host and producer of the radio and television show This American Life. He was scheduled to speak at the New Hope Community Church in Happy Valley. When he found out about the active role that the church had played to promote the anti-SSM ballot measure, he asked for a change in venue.
- In 2008, when Kurt Kroon became a pastor at New Hope, he was shocked by the anti-gay reputation that the church had in the community. He said:
"I was shocked that this was one of the dominant online conversations. That’s just not what we want to be known for."
- In 2014:
- Janet Cotton, another pastor at New Hope, said:
"Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed I would have this feeling, but I think I’m with a lot of people in the evangelical camp. I don’t want people to think I’ve sold out my belief system, but I don’t want to be harsh and judgmental."
- Kevin Palau, president of the Luis Palau Association, said that he and many other evangelical leaders in Oregon are no longer fighting marriage equality. 5
The Oregon Family Council promotes a new initiative to create the freedom to discriminate, and criticises the District Court ruling:
The Oregon Family Council played a major role in passing the 2004 Constitutional ban on gay marriages. They decided to promote a new citizen initiative to allow public accomodations to actively discriminate against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community (LGBT). Their initiative would give public accomodations immunity from prosecution under Oregon's human rights legislation, but only if their desire to discriminate against LGBTs is based on their sincere religious beleifs.
A "public accommodation" is a public or private group or business that serves the general public. Examples include retail stores like wedding cake bakers, companies providing services like wedding photographers, companies that rent apartments and houses, etc.
Section 659A.403 of Oregon's human rights legislation 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." [Emphasis is not in the original]
In early 2013, Aaron Klein, co-owner of the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery, refused on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. 6 The latter were planning to be married out-of-state. The couple complained to the Human Rights Commission and Klein was found to have violated the human rights legislation. More details.
This form of discrimination in the provision of goods or services appears to violate the Ethic of Reciprocity found in all major religious faiths. In Christianity, the ethic is called "The Golden Rule." Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) is recorded in the New Testament as instructing his followers to do onto others as they would wish others to do onto them. A public accommodation that refuses to service customers would seem to be a direct violation of the Golden Rule and Jesus' instruction. More details.
The Council may not be able to rely on their traditional support base of fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians in the future promotion of this new initiative.
Gerry Breshears, a professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland, OR said of the Council:
"I honestly think they misjudged this. Ten years ago, they carried a lot of political weight, and I don’t think they do anymore. ... Ten years ago, there was a feeling we could make a difference. Now there is not. Older evangelicals are saying, 'We’ve been run over by the steamroller.' Younger ones are saying, 'What’s the issue'?" 5
Josh Butler, a pastor at Imago Dei Community in Portland said:
"Historically, there’s been an unhealthy alignment of white evangelical churches with right-wing Republicans. We’re not trying to swing left, but we’re trying to create a space where followers can wrestle with this." 5
We attempted to find information about the Oregon Family Council's past activity in successfully promoting the 2004 constitutional ban on SSM and the new initiative that would allow businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community with impunity. Its website appears to be inactive. Its blog does not seem to be functioning and its latest postings were in 2013. 3 However, their Facebook page is quite active. It contains a posting titled:
"A Federal Judge struck down marriage in Oregon today without allowing a voice for those who support our [state] Constitutional definition of marriage." 4
The posting says:
"Regardless of your view on same-sex marriage, May 19th will be remembered as a tragic day for Oregonians and our cherished system of representative government.
From every appearance, key elected officials in collusion with special interest and a single federal judge have taken the sacred constitutional process of lawmaking and turned it into a coordinated publicicty stunt.
The tragedy began when the Attorney General and Governor spurned their sworn duty to uphold the state constitution by refusing to defend a key provision duly passed [in 2004] by some 57% of the electorate. Next, one federal judge, Michael McShane, through an abuse of technical shenanigans, literally barred any argument defending the Oregon constitutional definition of marriage from being presented in court.
Today, the collusion is fully exposed. Amazingly, at the very moment the judge's sealed decision is [sic] released, every county courthouse [in Oregon] already has [sic] in place 'revised' license forms to accommodate same-sex marriages...." 4
In common with all other reports by religious and social conservatives that we have seen, the Oregon Family Council's report does not mention that the oath of office sworn to by both the Oregon Governor and its Attorney General contains a section in which they promise to uphold the federal Constitution as the ultimate law of the land.
There is an alternate explanation to the Oregon Family Council's conspiracy theory concerning the prompt availability of same-sex marriage licenses. In Arkansas, after a state court legalized same-sex marriage, county clerks simply used White-out correction fluid to modify standard marriage license application forms, changing "Mr." to "Ms." etc. Some might argue that:
- Since the Oregon District Court's decision date and time were known well in advance, and
- Since so many District Courts in other states had recently issued rulings that legalized SSM, then
it would have been irresponsible for county clerks to not have modified application forms in advance of need.
Between mid-2013, and 2014-MAY. federal judges in many District Courts have declared state same-sex marriage (SSM) bans to be unconstitutional. Stays were issued in almost all of these cases by a District Court, or Court of Appeals, or the U.S. Supreme Court. 2 The only two exceptions are Oregon and Pennsylvania. In both cases the state's attorney general decided that the bans were clear violations of the due process and/or equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and were thus unconstitutional and unenforceable.
The decision of the Supreme Court to not issue a stay might possibly help give some insight into what a possible future decision by the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage across all 50 states might be. Most judicial commentators are certain that the U.S. Supreme Court will be faced with such a decision shortly. There are about 70 active lawsuits across the U.S. seeking marriage equality. Every state that does not currently permit same-sex marriages now has at least one active lawsuit. A few lawsuits have already advanced to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals level.
This speculation turned out to be true. On 2015-JUN-26, the High Court issued a ruling in the case Obergefell
v. Hodges that legalized gay marriages across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four out of five U.S. Territories.
A video by Inform titled "Justices won't stop gay marriages in Oregon:"
2017-DEC-28: The Sweekcakes by Melissa case drags on:
Back in 2013, a lesbian couple, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, asked the owners of a bakery in Oregon called "Sweetcakes by Melissa" to bake a wedding cake for their upcoming out-of-state gay wedding. The owners, Aaron and Melissa Kline, refused. The Bowman-Cryers launched a complaint to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. They claimed that they had been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. The Kleins said that that was not the reason for their decision to discriminate against the potential customers. Rather, it was based on their sincerely held deep personal Christian beliefs that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman.
In the words of their lawyer from "First Liberty Institute" in Plano, TX -- a religious legal defense group -- business owners have the constitutional right to be "free to live their faith." First Liberty apparently believes that freedom of religion extends to include the freedom of businesses to discriminate against customers in violation of Oregon's human rights law. Ignored in the battle is the Golden Rule which lies at the heart of Jesus' teachings: that Christians are required to treat others as they would wish to be treated by others. This rule of behavior is found in all major world religions.
Oregon is one of many U.S. states that have laws prohibiting discrimination by public accommodations against potential customer because of their race, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, etc. (Public Accommodations are businesses that provide goods and services to the general public. They include retail outlets like bakeries.)
The owners of the bakery lost the complaint and were assessed a unusually high fine of $135,000. They turned to crowd funding and were able to raise money from individual donors quickly to cover the fine. They eventually raised a total of $450,000 from over 7,000 strangers who donated money via two crowd funding web sites.
The bakery owners appealed their case to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
In the past, freedom of religion has been interpreted to refer to religious belief, speech, writing, assembly with fellow believers, religious proselyzing, etc. Ever since same-sex marriages became available in the U.S., conflicts have arisen with florists, wedding cake bakeries, professional photographers, etc. whose owners feel that their sincere religious beliefs force them to reject the concept of marriage equality. Many religious conservatives believe that freedom of religion in the U.S., as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, includes the freedom for store owners to discriminate against potential customers on religious grounds.
There is a very similar lawsuit from a Colorado baker -- Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, CO -- that is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. Their ruling is expected during 2018-JUN and will probably be effective across the country. First Liberty filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the Kleins in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, said that the "Sweetcakes" case:
"... centers on one vitally important question: can the government force citizens to violate their conscience or their faith?. The Constitution is clear – the government cannot force people to violate their religious beliefs. The First Amendment was written to prevent exactly that.
One of the great things about America is that we are a tolerant society that protects diversity of thought. We should all be willing to peacefully coexist with different opinions. That’s the only way freedom can truly exist. We hope the Oregon Court of Appeals will dispense justice for the Kleins and honor their constitutional right to religious freedom."
The Oregon Court of Appeals held a hearing on 2017-MAR-02. The court upheld the fine levied by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. 7
The following video is a 30 second telecast by Tegna Media concerning the court decision:
Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer issued a statement following the court ruing which said, in part:
"All Oregonians can go into any store and expect to be treated just like any other person. It does not matter how you were born or who you love. All of us are equal under the law and should be treated equally. Orgeon will not allow a 'Straight Couples Only' sign to be hung in bakeries or other stores."
The case may now be appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Maria L. Ganga, "U.S. Supreme Court refuses to block Oregon gay marriage," Los Angeles Times, 2014-JUN-04, at: http://www.latimes.com/
- Warren Richey, "Same-sex marriage stands in Oregon after Supreme Court denies stay of ruling," Christian Science Monitor, 2014-JUN-04, at: http://www.csmonitor.com/
- The home page of Oregon Family Council's web site is at: https://www.oregonfamilycouncil.org/
- The Facebook page of the Oregon Family Council is at: https://www.facebook.com/
- Kate Willson, "Onward Christian Voters," Willamette Week, 2014-MAR-20, at: http://www.wweek.com/
- "Oregon Bakery Owner Aaron Klein Denies Lesbian Couple A Wedding Cake," Huffington Post, 2013-FEB-04, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- "Oregon court upholds $135K ruling against Christian bakers who refused to bake cake for gay wedding," 2017-DEC-28, at: http://www.theblaze.com/
- Video by Tegna Media at: http://interactive.tegna-media.com/
Copyright © 2014 to 2017by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2014-MAY
Latest update: 2017-DEC-29
Author: B.A. Robinson