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Campaign suspends effort to allow Oregon businesses to refuse same-sex wedding participation

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PORTLAND, Ore. - The sponsors of a measure to permit Oregon business owners to turn away same-sex couples whose weddings they object to for religious reasons have abandoned their campaign.

Friends of Religious Freedom said Friday it will suspend the ballot initiative and instead pursue a lawsuit on behalf of business owners who object to same-sex weddings.

The Oregon Supreme Court approved the ballot language on Thursday. The campaign suspended its efforts 24 hours later, saying the ballot language as written by the office of the Oregon attorney general was unacceptable.

The campaign sought to portray the issue as one that frees business owners from having to violate their religious beliefs by abiding by Oregon law.

"But the certified ballot title does not acceptably state this," Friends of Religious Freedom said in the release issued late Friday afternoon. "Indeed, it states it as intolerant instead of protecting equal rights of conscience."

The ballot language approved said a "Yes" vote "creates 'religious belief' exceptions to anti-discrimination laws," language the measure's supporters said unfairly prejudiced voters against them.

The Oregon ballot measure came one year after a suburban Portland bakery refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding because of the bakery owners' religious beliefs.

The Oregon bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, was found by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries to have violated the civil rights of the same-sex couple. After intense local attention, the bakery closed its storefront and relocated to a Gresham home.

The ballot measure followed soon after.

A similar situation in Denver resulted in an administrative law judge ruling that a bakery had violated Colorado law by refusing to serve a gay couple.

Nationally, seven such measures were introduced in 2014 by legislatures in three states: Tennessee, Kansas and South Dakota. None became law.

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