It’s official: discrimination doesn’t pay. According to The Huffington Post, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, the Oregon bakery that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, closed last week despite raising almost $500,000 on crowdfunding sites.
Although nobody wants to see someone lose their business, it’s critical to remember the treatment that Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer suffered at the hands of the bakery’s owners and their supporters. Sweet Cakes by Melissa’s owners violated Oregon’s nondiscrimination law by refusing to serve the couple even though the bakery is a place of public accommodation. The bakery’s owners later claimed that selling a cake that would be used in a same-sex couple’s wedding celebration would violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” After receiving the Bowman-Cryers’ discrimination complaint from the state of Oregon, one of the bakery owners put the couple’s home address, email and phone number on Facebook. Messages and threats poured in, making the two women fear for their lives.
On the other hand, politicians like U.S. senator and then-GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lauded Sweet Cakes by Melissa’s owners, claiming that they were victims of a “smear campaign and economic boycott.” The owners later made an appearance at Cruz’s Rally for Religious Liberty as “special guests victimized by government persecution.” As mentioned before, they also raised a significant amount of money from their supporters in order to pay the $135,000 fine leveled on them by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. In a strange twist, the owners claimed that despite donations of nearly half a million dollars, they were unable to pay the fine. Don’t worry—they eventually paid up.
Ultimately, Sweet Cakes by Melissa’s undoing was not the fine or “government persecution,” but the owners’ actions against the Bowman-Cryers. We decided as a nation several generations ago that businesses that open themselves up to the public should not be able to turn customers away— even when the business owner’s religious beliefs justified the discrimination. Everyone— even these bakery owners— is entitled to their religious beliefs, but those beliefs do not empower business owners to ignore the law.