On one hand, gay marriage policy is being woven into federal and state laws. The Internal Revenue Service announced last week that same sex couples united in marriage will be able to claim federal tax deductions and credits previously reserved for heterosexual married couples. The same week, the Pentagon announced it was considering extra paid leave time for same sex military couples travelling to states that marry same sex couples. This week, the Department of Defense announced it is granting same sex couples the same military spousal benefits heterosexual married couples receive.
Opponents argue that Illinois' same sex marriage proposal is inappropriately named the "Religious Freedom Protection Act" because religious freedoms are at stake if gay marriages are legalized in the fall veto session. Proponents say churches are exempt from being forced to offer gay marriage. However, that leaves private businesses vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits if owners object to the sexual orientation of their customers, based on religious beliefs. Gay marriage advocates argue religious freedom rights should not supercede anti-discrimination laws.
In Oregon, a small cake business is shutting its doors after the owners notified a potential client that they were refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple's wedding. Gresham cake business owners Aaron and Melissa Klein say that since they rejected baking the wedding cake back in January, their business has dropped by 50 percent and they are receiving "Mafia-like
death threats due to the controversy. As a result, the Kleins are closing their store to return their now down-sized business back home.
At issue is whether the Klein's violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007. Oregon law does not allow businesses to deny service based on sexual orientation. There is an exemption for religious organizations, churches and schools, but private businesses aren barred from discriminating based on sexual orientation, race, sex, age, veteran status, disability or religion.
The Kleins - now facing a discrimination complaint by the lesbian couple - left the following sign on the door of the building where their business was previously located:
The Kleins aren't alone being threatened with business closure because of non-discrimination laws that prevent private business owners from refusing service based on the customers' sexual orientation.
In May, a lesbian couple wanted to order a wedding cake from Fleur Cakes in Hood River, but the owner refused, citing her religious beliefs.
A Portland bar owner was ordered to pay $400,000 to a group of cross-dressers he banned from his club last year. The penalty was actually the first to be imposed under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007.
And Washington's attorney general is suing Richland florist Baronelle Stutzman for violating the state's anti-discrimination laws because she refused to fill an order of flowers for a same-sex wedding. Stutzman has counter-sued, claiming the state is violating her religious freedom.
In Illinois' downstate Paxton, a Christian couple that owns a bed and breakfast refused to host a same sex civil union reception, and as a result are facing a discrimination complaint.