News Briefs

By Kim Hoffman, PQ Monthly


On Nov. 25, Oregon Family Council spokeswoman Teresa Harke made upsetting remarks over a proposed ballot measure that would allow businesses refusal of same-sex customers, specifically bakeries. What happened next angered the Jewish community when she offered: “Would you expect a Jewish bakery to serve a neo-Nazi who wanted a cake with a swastika on it?” Rattling the LGBT and Jewish community? Way to salt something sweet.

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A week prior to Harke’s statements, Oregon Family Council filed the “Protect Religious Freedom Initiative” — the official measure they hope will allow wedding businesses the right to turn away same-sex couples. Previously, the council created the Protect Oregon Marriage committee — and they’ll likely have a big fork-full in the upcoming 2014 ballot in an attempt to knock down the equal rights we’re campaigning for. These are perilous times we’re living in if there can’t even be gay cake.

There’s nothing sweet about Sweet Cakes. This bakery recently came under attack after owners Melissa and Aaron Klein turned away a same-sex couple’s request for a wedding cake — claiming it was a religious conflict. Fleur Cakes owner Pam Regentin also refused a same-sex couple several months ago, citing religious differences as well. Despite this oven-hot hostility, Oregon statute clearly states that businesses must not discriminate against religion, race or sexual orientation. Willamette Week investigated how these two bakeries would respond to requests for divorce, stem-cell success, baby-out-of-wed-lock, and Pagan solstice cakes. Good news: Sweet Cakes offers rates on any one of these cakes. But if you’re a gay witch — you can forget about it.

Mazel tov is in order for Portland teen Duncan McAlpine Sennett whose video went viral on Nov. 26, when his congregation Beth Isreal posted his Bar Mitzvah speech on YouTube. At just 13 years old, Sennett’s D’var Torah speculated over aspects of the Bible in which Jacob marries two women — his first cousins. Sennet’s conclusion being: Gay marriage can’t be that bad. In fact, it’s perfectly fine.

Former federal law clerk Margaret “Gosia” Fonberg won back health benefits for her domestic partner after a five-year battle with the District of Oregon’s Employment Dispute Resolution process. In 2009, she was clerking under U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin when attempts were made to enroll her partner in her health plan. On Nov. 25, the Executive Committee of the 9th Circuit’s Judicial Court ruled that Fonberg had been discriminated against. She and her partner have since been reimbursed.

A recent glowing report from the Human Rights Campaign showed that Portland, Eugene and Salem are top-ranked cities for the LGBTQ community. Northwest, represent. Portland scored 100 points, with Eugene and Salem at 93 and 91. Ratings made considerations for recognition of same-sex relationships, local laws, LGBTQ services and plenty of other factors — factors that Oregon clearly has down pat.

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On Dec. 3, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian sent out a letter to Speaker John Boehner in regard to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, urging his vote. Avakian cited statistics that show no increase in discrimination-based litigation in Oregon, in response to Boehner’s argument that ENDA would unnecessarily increase “frivolous lawsuits.”

In response to Avakian’s letter, Senator Jeff Merkley furthered this motion by sending out an email in support of the Labor Commissioner’s recent letter to Speaker John Boehner, saying: “In 2007, here in Oregon, we made employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity illegal—to ensure that no one will be fired at work because of who they love.” He encouraged his supporters to sign Brad’s letter. Now that’s brotherly love.

The Equity Foundation has undergone significant change and is looking ahead to 2014. For the first time, a membership will allow people a say in how the organization grants funds to non-profits. Executive Director Karol Collymore writes: “We believe Oregon communities should be safe for LGBTQ individuals and that sexual orientation and gender identity should not be the basis for social alienation or legal discrimination.”

Merkley_Portrait news briefs

Local artist and queer rights activist, Nic Adenau is seeking support for his forthcoming project, He plans to document the experiences of bullied LGBTQ youth by creating a virtual space online through this website, plus an art book. Adenau embarks on a tour across various west coast cities beginning January 2014. All proceeds from book sales will go toward the bullying epidemic. Way to go, Nic!

As of Dec. 7, Oregon United for Marriage reached its petition goal of 116,284 signatures needed for the 2014 ballot. Collections of signatures will go on, to ensure no stone goes unturned. This referendum could overturn the 2004 amendment banning same-sex marriage. If nullified, Oregon will become the seventeenth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Did you know the number ‘17’ in numerology marks a desire for peace and love for humanity? Kismet, if you will.


Two Seattle workers, Michael Hall and Amie Garrand, filed a lawsuit against BNSF Railway on Dec. 3 in Seattle’s U.S. District Court, alleging they were denied rights when the company refused to add their partners to their benefits plans in violation of the Equal Pay Act. A day later, the National Railway Labor Conference announced they would begin health care coverage for same-sex partners beginning January 1. Washington has been in the spotlight since the state legalized same-sex marriage last year. BNSF has since reached a settlement with the two workers, which is enough to make you want to whistle “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby heard arguments on Dec. 4 from Salt Lake City, Utah, attorney Peggy Tomsic to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. In a city where the Mormon church takes precedence, Tomsic argued against the state’s notion to protect “responsible procreation” and an “optimal mode of child-rearing” by asking how “allowing a heterosexual, post-menopausal woman to marry was different than allowing a gay or lesbian couple to wed,” reports the Huffington Post. Final decisions should be made by early in the new year.

On Dec. 5 a report concluded that over 7,000 couples have wed in Washington within the first nine months of same-sex equality passing, according to the Department of Health. The one-year marker came on Dec. 6. Since Superior Court Judge Mary Yu officiated the first wedding last year, about 17% of the state’s 2013 marriages have been same-sex ‘I do’s.’ Here’s to throwing more rice in 2014.

–Kim Hoffman