Christian Businesses May No Longer Be Forced to Serve Same-Sex Ceremonies If New OR Ballot Initiative Goes Through

After several stories of private business owners being forced to compromise their faith, a Christian organization in Oregon filed a ballot initiative aiming to protect business owners who refuse to participate in same-sex ceremonies from being served with lawsuits or other penalties.

The Oregon Family Council filed the proposal, entitled the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative, last week in response to the numerous lawsuits and complaints targeting businesses who denied service to couples planning same-sex ceremonies in the state and across the nation.

"A growing trend of silencing can be seen where business owners of faith or with conscientious objections are being forced to compromise their individual conscience rights or face harassment, persecution, penalties levied upon them by the state, and the possibility of losing their business for declining to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies," Oregon Family Council wrote in a news release announcing the initiative.

The current non-discrimination laws in Oregon make it illegal for businesses to refuse service based on "race, color, religion, sex [or] sexual orientation."

Supporters of the initiative insist that the issue is not serving gay couples, but rather being required to participate in same-sex ceremonies.

One such example involved the husband and wife owners of the now-closed Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, Ore., which was forced to shut down after news spread that they declined to make a cake for a lesbian couple.

When Melissa and Aaron Klein's stance on homosexuality was made public in February, the couple received a mixed bag of positive support and outrage, which ultimately caused the couple to close their business.

"I feel like all these media people -- they have not gotten our story -- our actual story. And what we're really about and why we said no," Melissa Klein previously told The Blaze. "Everyone is looking at us like we're these hateful monsters that don't want to serve gay people."

The text of the proposed amendment proposed would make sure that any business owner in Oregon would not be "penalized by the state or a political subdivision of this state for declining to solemnize, celebrate, participate in, facilitate, or support any same-sex marriage ceremony or its arrangements, same-sex civil union ceremony or its arrangements, or same-sex domestic partnership ceremony or its arrangements."

It adds that "there are groups pushing the view that religion is purely a private matter and that religious voices or opinions should be silenced … religion is more than just private worship. It involves public expression on moral and social issues. Religious freedom, our first freedom, needs protection as this Initiative intends to do."

Oregon Family Council spokesperson Teresa Harke told the Christian Post that they need to gather one thousand signatures in order to proceed to the ballot title process, which would produce a title for the proposed initiative. The next step in the process would require the collection of at least 87,213 signatures to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.

Harke added that they intended to gather the required number of signatures through both grassroots efforts and online campaigns The Oregon Family Council hopes to have the initiative in front of voters in November 2014.

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