By Pamela Trezevant
I grew up in Winnsboro, South Carolina—the segregated South.
From my earliest memories, I learned how to survive as a black woman in the South: follow the rules and you will stay out of trouble. This meant when my family went to a movie theater, we sat in the balcony like all the other people of color in the state.
When I came out to myself as a lesbian in 1990, I knew never to share this discovery publicly. I was mindful to take precautions like parking several blocks away from any gay bar, minimizing the chances I would be seen. And I knew never to be affectionate in public with anyone I was dating.
Sadly, being LGBTQ in South Carolina is not much better today. Work brought me to Oregon 13 years ago and I plan to stay, because it is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly states in the country. I can be my full self here, without hiding any part of me.
I was saddened to read an opinion piece published in the Statesman Journal by Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips’s on December 5. This is the baker who refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins because their loving legal union conflicted with his Christian beliefs. The case went before the U.S. Supreme Court early in December.
My heart broke, because this same reasoning was used against my parents growing up in South Carolina. The specter of religious freedom prevented my parents from using public water fountains or sitting at lunch counters with white folks. But it was never about lunch counters in South Carolina in the 1960s, and it’s not about a wedding cake now.
At its core, the Masterpiece case is about whether a business that is open to the public is open to all. Phillips would like the court to conclude that a business owner should have the right to pick and choose which customers to serve. And, he wants the Court to enshrine this “freedom” to discriminate into law by using one of the most sacred moments in a couple’s lifetime—their wedding day.
Sadly, Oregon is not immune from this kind of discrimination. In 2013, Sweet Cakes by Melissa challenged the 2007 Oregon Equality Act when the owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, refused to sell Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer a cake for their wedding. Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries reviewed the case and rightly ruled that the Kleins violated the Oregon Equality Act, prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations based on the customer’s sexual orientation. The judge saw this case for what it was—discrimination, plain and simple.
It is Oregon’s commitment to justice that drew me here more than a decade ago, and why I plan to stay. I am proud that we continue to stand for equality and hope the U.S. Supreme Court will advance the protections we enjoy in Oregon. All of us deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of who we are and who we love.
Pamela Trezevant is Wells Fargo Team Member and chair of their LGBTQ Employee Group for Oregon. She is also President of Capitol Pride in Salem.