Oregon couple should pay hefty fine for discrimination
Oregon bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein, who denied service to a same-sex couple, were fined $135,000 in damages, leading to national headlines and an uproar over the couple's First Amendment rights and the American society's sensitivity issues.
A lesbian couple requested a wedding cake at Sweet Cakes by Melissa in 2013 and was told by the heterosexual couple they could not purchase one because of the nature of their marriage. The lesbian couple then filed a discrimination complaint with Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries, which investigated the claim.
It was not baseless. What the Sweet Cakes by Melissa owners did was against state law — and generally very rude. In Oregon, it is illegal for a "place of public accommodation," such as a bakery, to deny service to any clientele based on their sexual orientation.
Any responsible business owner would know this already. So I think either the Kleins knew their state's laws and did not care to follow them or were just being jerks to people because they thought their religion entitled them to it — the same way some white people felt entitled to mistreat African Americans in places of public accommodation more than 60 years ago.
The couple's First Amendment rights have not been violated by this ruling. They disobeyed a law. They were punished. There is a problem of perception with people who believe the Kleins have the right to deny service to someone who is homosexual.
The Bible does not tell its readers to act out against or mistreat people because they are gay. It simply says in one verse of one chapter that homosexuality is an abomination.
The Kleins are free to practice their religion and believe however they choose. They just can't tell someone he or she is unworthy of a service based on who they are, at least not in Oregon.
As a society, we are embracing a new vision of humanity in our country, where the thoughts and feelings of everyone are respected. Essentially, bullying is no longer tolerated.
The reasons once justified to hate people, such as skin color, sexual orientation, gender bending and many more, are being normalized. The process is not a simple one. Reflecting on African-American civil rights, it is likely that this process will take some time. Like it or not, it is happening. Oregon's anti-discrimination law is simply one step ahead of the federal government.
Maybe it's time we move on from prejudices. What makes this country so unique is our ability to adapt our federal and local laws to an ever-changing society. When prejudices are put aside and diversity is embraced, the magnitude of benefits that diversity brings to a community can propel it into the future with strength and unity.
Leona Mynes is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.