The Washington Times joined right-wing media's misinformation campaign about an Oregon bakery whose owners elected to close their store after facing a civil rights complaint for refusing to provide a cake for a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony.
In its September 5 report on the decision of owners Aaron and Melissa Klein to close their shop and begin operating out of their home, the Times inaccurately stated that the move came after the Kleins were “forced to shut down operations.” The article, titled, “Christian baker hounded by gays to close shop,” parroted the Kleins' assertion that the LGBT community employed “militant, mafia-style” tactics to shut their business down:
An Oregon baker with Christian beliefs who was forced to shut down operations after refusing to make a cake for a planned same-sex wedding says her faith in God has not wavered -- and in fact, has grown stronger because of the ordeal.
The lesbians, in turn, filed a complaint with the state, touching off a massive gay activist outcry that ultimately led the couple to shut their business doors -- the business they had spent years building -- and move operations this past weekend to their home.
The outcry from the gay community over their refusal to bake the lesbians' cake hit hard at their vendor business. Many cut ties and left them in limbo. The business had already suffered a tight winter; Mrs. Klein said the negative reaction from the lesbian cake ordeal likely pushed their revenue situation into the category of dire.
The Times' article is an excellent example of how off-base the right-wing media have been in response to the shop's closing. While the lesbian couple at the center of the controversy filed a civil rights complaint alleging that the business had violated the Oregon Equality Act, which makes it illegal for businesses to refuse service to LGBT people, the state of Oregon has not yet found in the same-sex couple's favor. The Kleins freely chose to close their store, due in part to the success of a boycott protesting their discriminatory business practices. (It's worth noting that earlier this year, the Kleins were claiming that the publicity from the case was actually boosting business.)
Moreover, the Kleins' refusal to serve the lesbian couple is a blatant act of discrimination based on the couple's sexual orientation - not simply the Kleins' religious objections to same-sex marriage, which is not legal in Oregon. Even if marriage equality was legal in the state, it would be impossible to separate the Kleins' refusal to serve the couple from the couple's sexual orientation. As is their right, the Kleins may believe that “homosexuality - the behavior - is a sin,” but civil rights protections affirm that such private beliefs cannot translate into public discriminatory practices.
Despite right-wing commentators' claims that opponents of anti-LGBT discrimination are the real bigots and bullies, there's nothing bullying or bigoted in boycotting businesses that unlawfully discriminate against customers based on who they are. But gay-baiters in right-wing media would have us believe that the inability of businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers indicates that we may no longer be a “free country.”