Civil rights complaint filed with wrong agency
A highly publicized civil-rights complaint against a Gresham bakery appears to be caught in bureaucratic limbo.
Last month, Sweet Cakes by Melissa of Gresham gained international attention when a lesbian couple from Portland said the bakery's Christian owners refused to make a cake for their upcoming same-sex wedding.
The couple filed a complaint with the state's Department of Justice, accusing bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein of violating Oregon's anti-discrimination law. The law doesnt allow places of public accommodation to refuse service based on several classifications, including sexual orientation.
Last month, when news of the incident hit the media, it set off a firestorm of controversy.
Supporters flocked to the bakery, overwhelming it with orders. Gay rights activists picketed the business and a famous baker from the Food Network's show Ace of Cakes offered to personally bake and delivery the couple's wedding cake.
The Department of Justice had confirmed the complaint was under investigation.
Now, a representative for Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries says the complaint instead should have been filed with the bureau's Civil Rights Division, which has yet to receive it.
Laurel Bowman filed a complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice on Jan. 18 one day after the incident in which she alleged that not only refused to do business with her and her fiancée, but also called the couple abominations unto the Lord.
Aaron Klein said making the cake would violate his Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. He also said its their constitutional right to refuse service based on religious beliefs, that the Oregon Constitution does not recognize same-sex marriage and that the comment regarding the couple being abominations unto the Lord was taken completely out of context.
The Kleins insist they serve homosexual individuals: They just dont make cakes for same-sex weddings.
In February, when the media covered the complaint, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Justice confirmed the complaint was under investigation.
But since then, the department advised the couple to instead file their complaint with the Bureau of Labor's and Industries' Civil Rights Division.
Although the Department of Justice does investigate complaints about businesses about 12,000 such complaints a year and the couple's complaint did not fall within the department's fraud regulations.
Charlie Burr, the bureau's spokesman, said the couple has been in conversations with us and that the bureau provided the necessary paperwork to complete and file in order to lodge an official complaint.
But so far, the complaint has not been filed.
If they were to, then we would open up an investigation, Burr said. We have a complaint-driven process, and right now we do not have a complaint filed against Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
The couple has a one-year window from the date of the incident to file, he added, so it's unclear whether the couple is waiting or whether they've decided to not pursue the case.
A call to their attorney seeking clarification on the matter was not returned by press time.