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Bella Cupcake responds to actions by Sweet Cakes by Melissa

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Debbie Phillips, owner of Bella Cupcake, said she appreciated all of her customers after Sweet Cakes by Melissa refused to serve a same-sex couple.

A debate sparked by a Gresham bakery’s refusal to sell a same-sex couple a wedding cake has resulted in a wave of support for a rival business.

Debbie Phillips, owner of Bella Cupcake, 134 N.W. Third St. in Gresham, said her bakery’s Facebook page has received hundreds of “likes” after she wrote, “We appreciate ALL of our customers, without you we wouldn’t be here!” on Friday, Feb. 1.

The post to her bakery’s Facebook and Twitter pages came in response to Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which is being investigated by Oregon’s Department of Justice for allegedly violating the state’s anti-discrimination law.

It’s a decision Phillips disagrees with, and one that’s indirectly brought her business into the discussion.

“I think it was a bad business decision, and it reflects badly on Gresham,” said Phillips, who moved her business from her home to downtown Gresham in 2010. “I don’t want anything to do with all that drama, but I think it’s a black eye on Gresham.

“People need to know that we’re not all like that.”

People have come out in droves to voice each side of the debate.

A line of customers stretched out the door of Sweet Cakes by Melissa on Saturday, Feb. 2. Aaron Klein, who co-owns the bakery with his wife, sold out well before closing. People showed up to support his Christian belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Phillips said there was a steady stream of customers coming into her shop that day as well.

“Saturday was really busy,” she said. “Some people came in and said, ‘Thanks for not being discriminatory.’ “

On Bella Cupcake’s Facebook page, people have shown their appreciation for the bakery’s equal-rights stance.

One person wrote: “Next time I’m in Gresham I’ll have to swing by and try a cupcake. Thanks for supporting equal rights!”

Another person wrote: “Yet another shining candle winning against the darkness that is bigotry.”

Beth Gatchell, a regular customer at Bella Cupcake, said she wouldn’t support a business that refuses service based on age, race, sexual orientation or other classifications. Gatchell added that she wants to teach her four children to be tolerant of all types of people.

“I would rather support a business that’s more forward thinking and a business who’s more community supportive,” said Gatchell, of Sandy. “It’s important to model more inclusive type situations than exclusive.”

Even before the incident last month, the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa haven’t tried to hide their Christian beliefs.

Their website is filled with Bible verses. It also reads, “Remember we do cakes for any occasion” — with one exception, of course.

Phillips is a Christian, too. But she doesn’t believe a business should have the right to select its customers.

“We have certain beliefs,” she said. “But politics and our faith and all those things are personal to us. And our customers are our customers. I think if someone came in and asked Jesus to make a cake, he’d make the cake. I just don’t get it.”

Neither does Lillian Negron, owner of Lillian’s Natural Foods, 283 N.W. Miller Ave.

Negron, a homosexual Christian, said she understands both sides of the argument and thinks the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa believe they’re being obedient to their religion.

“As a business person, I don’t think they should discriminate,” Negron said. “As a human being... you felt convicted and you felt obedient to God, you better listen to that.”

Sweet Cakes by Melissa could face a large backlash this weekend. Gay rights activists created a Facebook page called “Boycott Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Gresham, OR.”

The group also organized a protest, which will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9. The demonstration will start at Sweet Cakes by Melissa, and at 4 p.m, protesters will march to Bella Cupcake to support a business, they feel, is tolerant.

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