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Gresham bakery receives support, protest

Sales soar, anger erupts, at Sweet Cakes by Melissa


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: KRISTOPHER ANDERSON - KRISTOPHER ANDERSON Aaron and Melissa Klein, who own Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a Gresham bakery, were the subjects of protest and support after refusing to serve a same-sex couple.

Aaron Klein rested his arms atop the empty display case in his Gresham bakery, exhausted after his busiest and most profitable day in nearly five years.

With an hour left until close on Saturday, Feb. 2, Aaron, who already sold out of all his baked goods, had to turn customers away.

And for most of the day, a line of customers stretched out the door, even while protestors stood on a nearby street corner.

People flocked from throughout Oregon, and even Washington, to Sweet Cakes by Melissa, at 44 N.E. Division St., not for the tasty treats but to show support for the business that refused on Jan. 17 to sell a cake to a homosexual couple after learning the women were planning a same-sex wedding.

Aaron and Melissa, who are married and co-own the bakery, told the couple they didn’t want to support the wedding because of their Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The state’s Department of Justice is investigating Aaron’s actions to determine if he violated Oregon’s anti-discrimination law, which prohibits places of public accommodation to refuse service based on numerous classifications, including sexual orientation.

But Aaron’s refusal to sell the couple the cake did little to deter customers over the weekend.

“It’s probably the biggest day we’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s been big.”

“We couldn’t keep up,” Melissa added.

But since learning about the investigation on Monday, Jan. 28, not all of the response has been positive.

The couple said they’ve received emails, phone calls and Facebook messages from people around the country upset with the business’s allegedly discriminatory practice.

And outside the bakery’s parking lot on Saturday, a same-sex couple from Portland stood along Division Street, protesting the bakery’s actions.

Kim Crane and Rachel Oleson held signs and gave away homemade cupcakes to people who believe in equality.

“We thought that intolerance shouldn’t be the only story people hear about,” Crane said. “So we came out here to rally support for people who support equality. We’re just trying to raise awareness and give away some cupcakes.”

The couple, who plan to get married next year, said hearing about the bakery makes them feel like outcasts in their community.

“It’s personal for us and it’s personal for a lot of people,” Crane said. “And when you hear about something like that, it makes you feel like your neighborhood isn’t your neighborhood or your city isn’t your city. There are places where you’re not welcome.

So we’re trying to welcome people with our gay cupcakes.”

But Aaron said he’s not refusing all his services to homosexuals, only the sale of wedding cakes. And his supporters who showed up in droves on Saturday, said the woman who filed the complaint should simply buy the cake elsewhere.

“Nobody hates (homosexual individuals),” said Vlad Shalashov, who shopped with his wife, Miya, at the bakery for the first time to show support last weekend. “If they don’t like the owner who refused service to them, go somewhere else.”

Vlad and Miya, a Christian couple from Happy Valley, added that the Oregon Equality Act infringes upon their beliefs and persecutes Christians.

Miya, an immigrant from the Ukraine, said she came to the United States for religious freedom, but instead, “It looks like the same thing is starting here that we had over there.”

“(Christians) have rights, as well,” Miya added. “If we believe this is a sin and we don’t want to be supporting those actions, then we have the right to refuse.

“Gays and homosexuals is a lifestyle that they’ve chosen. This is what I believe. (The bakery) did not refuse service to them, but they did refuse to participate in having them get married.”

Outside the bakery, holding a colorful sign that read, “Don’t hate, let them eat cake,” Crane said people should have a right to their beliefs, but that a business shouldn’t be able to practice segregation.

“When it comes to discriminating against people and refusing to offer a person the same service that you would offer any other person — I don’t know the legality of it, but I know it’s intolerant,” Crane said.

As they closed their shop after serving people from Tacoma, Wash., to Halfway, Ore., Aaron and Melissa said they’ve received letters calling them “bigots” and “intolerant.” But the couple said they’re not discriminatory.

“We’re not hateful people,” Melissa said. “We’re just standing up for what we believe in.”

Aaron and Melissa, who could face fines if it’s found they violated the Oregon Equality Act, called the law “petty” and “intolerant.”

But they added that they won’t succumb to the threats of fines and intend to fight the investigation.

“I’m willing to stand up for God, and I’m going to stand up for my beliefs,” Melissa said. “If I lose this business, if I lose that for God, then I lose it for God. And I’ll be proud to lose it for him. That’s just me. That’s what I believe.”




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