Last month, judgment was finalized against Aaron and Melissa Klein for refusing to sell a same-sex couple a wedding cake out of the Oregon bakery they co-owned called Sweet Cakes by Melissa. In addition to $135,000 fine for violating the state’s nondiscrimination law, the Kleins were ordered to cease and desist from in any way communicating to the public an intention to discriminate. This, they claimed, was a violation of their free speech, but this week, they undermined their own self-victimizing argument.
On September 8th, residents of Fayetteville, Arkansas will consider Ordinance 5781, which creates LGBT nondiscrimination protections. While a local group is advocating for the protections, religious conservatives with national support are working to quash the ordinance, and Tuesday night, they brought in the Kleins to speak at their rally.
The rally attracted press attention, not only because of the hundreds who turned out, but because several advocates of Ordinance 5781 were forced to leave the event by a police escort. Aaron and Melissa Klein were among those interviewed by KNWA.
“You guys are facing the same issues we face in the state of Oregon and that is a law that really seemingly is needless,” Aaron explained. “It leaves the door wide open to force people to adhere to something they don’t want to adhere to.”
Melissa added, “We just feel that we also should have the right to — you know, not necessarily refuse a person, but refuse an event.”
These statements clearly project a desire to discriminate, but they probably stop short of communicating an actual intent to discriminate, demonstrating the distinction between political speech and the kind of exclusionary speech blocked by the cease-and-desist order. Instead, they disprove the very “gag order” argument made by national conservative groups who support the Kleins’ discriminatory cause: that the cease and desist violates their “right to freely speak” about the case and their personal beliefs. They spoke not only to the press, but to a gathering of hundreds of people, to talk about their own case and to advocate against LGBT protections.
By continuing to speak out, the Kleins are proving that LGBT nondiscrimination protections are actually not a violation of free speech or religious liberty. They simply protect LGBT people from discrimination.