Another voice: Pie maven asks: Who may we refuse to serve?

Some years ago, Pam Regentin and I were the last two bakers standing in Shortt Supply’s first pie-baking contest. We stood side by side, chatting nervously as the judges made their decision for first place. We talked about our kids and baking. We didn’t talk about the $1,000 first prize, but I’m sure we were both already thinking about how we’d spend it.

Pam won. I was genuinely happy for her, we hugged, and she tearfully accepted the prize money. I have seen her occasionally at the grocery store and we’ve exchanged pleasantries. Winning that contest helped her launch her baking business. And I went on to open Viento, and then, Nora’s Table in 2006.

So we have some things in common, Pam and I: We’re food service professionals, pie mavens, moms, Christians.

I’m not a lawyer, but I think we are both providers of public accommodations. Oregon Revised Statute 59A.400 says public accommodations “… means any place or service offering to the public accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges whether in the nature of goods, services, lodgings, amusements or otherwise.”

The law also defines who Pam and I must provide those services to: “all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is 18 years of age or older.” (ORS 659A.403)

So at Nora’s, that means I serve pretty much everybody. I’m sure there have been times when I’ve served child abusers, thieves, liars and just plain downright rude characters. Strangely enough, for those characteristics alone, I can ask those people to leave my restaurant.

I can refuse to serve them, if for some reason I know they are liars, child abusers or thieves, since I find those qualities offensive. I can ask them to leave if they are too loud, or have extremely bad taste in Bermuda shorts. Those are my rights.

But the law says that I must provide, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction, services to people who fit into Oregon’s protected class statuses, and that includes gay and lesbian people.

When Pam says the media has misinterpreted her actions, I think she may have missed this important aspect of the law. Again, I’m not an attorney, but if I must provide cakes without any distinction, discrimination or restriction, I don’t think I can refuse a wedding cake, and offer, perhaps, instead, a birthday cake. That is a restriction on my services that I would provide to others.

In Pam’s recent opinion piece in this paper, she said, “I cannot force Katie Pugh to abide by what I believe; neither can she nor anyone who supports her force me to do the same.” Beliefs are not the issue here, and the state’s civil rights laws do not endeavor to change anyone’s belief.

A racist hotel owner may continue to hate a person of color, and as long as he provides a hotel room, an equal accommodation, he has obeyed the law. His heart is in God’s hands.

Pam and I do have one distinct difference: This past summer, our daughter Abbey married her wife Shannon on the Hood River waterfront. No, it is not legal in Oregon, but it is such a blessed union in all our families’ eyes.

I would never try to change Pam’s beliefs. But I do hope she will come to understand that the law is designed to give Abbey and Shannon and so many others the freedom to live their lives, to shop and to eat and dine and work and live wherever they choose. And order a wedding cake with no distinction, discrimination or restriction.


Kathy Watson lives in Hood River.

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commonsense51 5 years, 5 months ago

So here's the question for "Nora's Table"......when a person is religiously opposed to same-sex marriage, and a law is created to force you to violate your conscience and religious beliefs, your religion (which is definitely NOT Christian) teaches you that person must do what is immoral to them? What you really support then is what we call "slavery". You want the state to force Pam to do what her conscience and faith does not allow. Since she does not believe as you do, and you have the state on your side, all must now bow before your religious beliefs? Is this what the homosexual community calls "love" and "tolerance". How tolerant are you, "Nora's Table" when you force your will upon another? This is slavery and contrary to our Constitution which upholds freedom of religion. When the state grants "special exemptions" to certain groups of people based on sexual orientation, it discriminates against those others who are not specially protected, hence there is this word called "oppression".


gorillanosh 5 years, 5 months ago


In reference to your question... If you operate a business and a livelihood that operates in the public space... it is subject to the public laws. It is not slavery or oppression. You're free to not give cakes away to whoever you want.


I do not think that homosexuality is a federally protected class yet. So pam may have the right to refuse service. I am unfamiliar with the state laws in Oregon however. Privately you can discriminate against anything for any reason. Publicly however... if that is where you wish to take advantage of the environments that society provides for you to run a business to make a living... you cannot trample on the rights of others. It is the social contract you enter into by deciding to continue to live in this nation. . Pam is not encouraging these people to engage in homosexual sex. Pam bakes cakes. Folks are going to do what they are going to do with or without cake. Her objection does nothing to stop them. Hence it is not about stopping them. It is about disdain and judgement... something best left to GOD anyway.


Your point resonates with me however... IF a law is passed that states that Pam must encourage and demand the couple have sex with each other... then i am standing up with you in major protest.


but this is not the case, Pam operates a business in the public space... BAKING CAKES


commonsense51 5 years, 5 months ago

Gorillanosh, what you seem to be missing or consistently overlooking, is the simple truth Pam, for religious reasons, will not give her blessing to same-sex unions. Note well she has said she would do various other products for these two women, but the wedding cake is another matter. You can speak as much as you like about public and private etc., but we do have freedom of religion in this country, even in what some call the "public square". And how can anyone not understand the most simple point about slavery? If the state attempts to force a Christian to do what their conscience and faith forbids (touch not the unclean thing, I Cor. 6:9-10, etc), this is slavery. I can only conclude you support the state forcing Christians to do what their conscience and faith forbid? Isn't this what you support? Do you admit it? Moreover, you speak of discrimination as if it is always a bad thing. Sometimes it is good. Home buyers may discriminate against bad areas of town which are dangerous to live. When it comes to choosing a wife, men may discriminate against women who have slept around a lot. Chances are they may not be faithful in marriage. Some poor people discriminate against name brand foods because of cost. Do you really think you don't discriminate in your own life? And if it is wrong for Pam to "discriminate" for religious reasons, then it must also be bad for the homosexual community to discriminate (boycott) against her business and her husband's? Is your disrimination good, but hers bad? Do you support this boycott/punishment, intimidation etc? Do you really want people to live in fear of bullies, if they refuse to do what you want? This is all I can conclude by your words above. If I have misrepresented you, please explain.


gorillanosh 2 years, 1 month ago

Pam is free to not give her blessing... that has nothing to do with the services her business offers to the public. If someone's religion tells them not to serve black people, that's illegal. If someone's religion tells them not to serve muslims, that's illegal. If someone's religion causes someone to refuse to make cakes for christians, thats illegal... and christians would be up in arms. Religion cannot be used in public business as cause to discriminate. This is not slavery. This is the cost of doing business. . To answer your question, yes i do support the state forcing christians, muslims, gay people who hate heterosexuals and vice versa... to do what their conscience and faith forbid when it infringes on the rights of fellow americans. there are radicalized muslims whose faith and conscience would run reckless in the public sphere if not checked by the state... sharia law! there are many fringe groups who would discriminate against christians. you want them controlled, well it's a double edged sword then. Thats freedom of religion. freedom of religion stops at discriminating against others because that infringes on their rights as fellow americans. What if other businesses begin discriminating? drugstores discriminating sound like a good idea? no medicine for you, go to your christian-friendly drugstore... they are all out? well, dems da brakes... someone's religion may want to discriminate against YOU. . this isn't about blessing. its about cakes and the slippery slope that is created when you allow discrimination in public commerce. . On Discrimination... yes we are all free to discriminate... in the private sphere of life. every example you gave was a from the private sector. Customers are free to discriminate at their pleasure, businesses are not. you cannot force people to buy products, that would actually be slavery. If the homosexual community boycotts her business it is neither good nor bad. it's the cost of doing business. I support any boycott that succeeds because then it has the power of the consumer behind it. what's the resolution? force people to buy? nope. this includes a homosexual couple who starts a cake baking business that operates in the public space. you and anyone else are free to boycott them and if they fail... they need to reevaluate. . this isn't about bullies. Businesses operate by the grace and the consumption of the consumer... not the other way around. I didn't see your reply until today. my apologies on my belated response.


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