Celebrity cake-maker and Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman is used to getting lots of attention for his creative baking skills. But recently he decided to put them to use to champion the rights of same-sex couples everywhere.
Earlier this year, a lesbian couple in Oregon was refused a wedding cake by local baker Aaron Klein, who stated that their union was an affront to his religious beliefs. Upon reading the story on The Huffington Post, Goldman reached out to the women first through his public Twitter account and then through HuffPo Live, declaring: “If you guys want, I will make you a cake for free, drive it up to Portland—no charge—just to right this wrong.”
The pastry chef tells TakePart that he was inspired to get involved because as far as he’s concerned, discrimination of any kind is intolerable. “There’s no difference in telling someone you’re not going to bake a cake for them because they’re gay than there is telling them that they’re not allowed to have a job because they’re Irish, or that they have to use a different restroom because they’re black. It makes no sense.”
While his supporters, like celebrity foodie Ted Allen and chef Art Smith, are publicly applauding Goldman’s offer, some of his followers on Twitter have criticized him for disrespecting Klein’s “right to refuse service.” But Goldman says, when it comes to discrimination, there is no such right. “One lady was telling me, ‘You have the right to choose by the Constitution.’ No, you don’t,” he says. “You cannot tell somebody that because they’re gay that they’re not going to get service. That’s illegal. It’s not just immoral, it’s not just disgusting, it’s not just despicable, it’s illegal.”
The Associated Press reports that according to Oregon state law, it’s a violation for a business to deny “full and equal accommodations” for customers based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. The couple’s complaint sparked an investigation by the state attorney general’s office, which could fine Aaron Klein up to $50,000.
Klein, who with his wife owns Sweet Cakes by Melissa, defended his actions to NBC News. The baker denied allegations that he called the women’s upcoming marriage “an abomination” but admitted that he did refuse them a wedding cake. “I believe that marriage is a religious institution ordained by God. ‘A man should leave his mother and father and cling to his wife’…that to me is the beginning of marriage.”
In response, bureau commissioner Brad Avakian told local news station KGW, “Regardless of one’s religious belief, if you open up a store, and you open it up to the public to sell goods, you cannot discriminate in Oregon under our civil rights laws.”
While state officials sort out the details of the investigation, Goldman remains ecstatic about the opportunity to get people talking about an issue that’s remained unresolved for too long. It’s a cause he’s been privately championing over the last decade since the first time a client asked him to bake a cake for a gay couple. “I thought it was so cool, and so even back in the day we were making cakes with a couple of dudes on top…Those were the best weddings,” he says. “It takes a lot for people to embrace a life of being a homosexual and to face the things that sometimes come with that, like gay-bashing and all the negativity…it takes a lot of courage to do something like that.”
And while cynics may say that Goldman is using the opportunity to get publicity, he finds those accusations pretty funny. “I had a TV show that was on in 150 countries, I don’t think I need the PR. I think I’ve earned a sort of celebrity credit and now I’m spending it on an issue that I believe in.”
What sort of consequences should Aaron Klein face for refusing the couple service? Let us know in the Comments.