Melissa and Aaron Klein, co-owners of the Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, are currently appealing a $135,000 fine imposed on them in July by the state of Oregon for turning away a lesbian couple who ordered a wedding cake in 2013. The Kleins had said that they refused to sell the cake based on their evangelical Christian faith and their opposition to same-sex marriage.
In an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress over the weekend at the Values Voter Summit, the annual conference of social conservatives, the Kleins were clear that they believe their situation differs from the one involving Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her opposition to marriage equality. Davis was honored at the conference, given the “Cost of Discipleship Award” by the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, who compared her to Rosa Parks.
“It’s kind of removed regarding the specifics of it,” Aaron Klein responded. “We were a totally privately owned business. Everything had to do with just Melissa and I living our daily lives. The Kim Davis situation, a public official, it plays out a little bit differently. So it doesn’t really affect us, detract or add to.”
Under Oregon law, gays and lesbians are protected from discrimination in public accommodations. But Aaron Klein explained his view that baking a cake is “artistic expression” and thus his cause is one of free speech.
“When it comes to baking a wedding cake there is so much more involved than just baking a cake and sending it out the door,” he said. “You have to look at it from a very artistic standpoint.”
In the interview, Aaron Klein also suggested that he -- and all bakers and business owners -- should have the right to turn away a Muslim couple that might be seeking a wedding cake as well, even though religion is a protected class not only in the state of Oregon but federally, under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“I think that we should probably really look hard and long at what we can and cannot do in this country as business owners,” he said, again describing it as a free speech issue. “Do you surrender your rights at the door? When you walk through the door and you start operating your business, do you surrender your constitutional freedoms? I don’t believe you do. Now, if a Muslim came to me, and say I did take issue with a Muslim marriage, okay? Should I have that right? You have to ask yourself that… It’s about freedom period... I think that I should be able to say what I want, when I want, just like you.”
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