Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer haven’t really left the headlines since an Oregon baker’s refusal to bake their wedding cake led to a discrimination case and renewed a national debate about religious freedom and LGBTQ equality.
But it wasn’t for lack of trying. In a rare interview with The Oregonian, the couple breaks their long silence to share the impact the publicity the case—and the bakery owners national tour—has had on their lives and their children.
Though it’s been three years since Sweet Cakes By Melissa denied the couple service, citing religious objections to same-sex marriage, the Laurel and Rachel still receive death threats. Sometimes prompted by events in the news, hateful message continue to pour in, even as the couple has made every effort to keep a low profile.
One day in May, Rachel told The Oregonian that she received a threat on her phone while waiting for their daughter’s school bus:
I am buying up my ammo right now you filthy, ugly, disgusting, fat, stupid, cruel, anti-Christian piece of liberal scum. I am getting ready for the war so I hope you have a good hiding place, you sick, disgusting, miserable, piece of degenerate lesbian scum.
Such messages are not uncommon for the couple. While attending Pride as a family for the first time since their daughters came into their lives, Laurel and Rachel received dozens of hate messages between them. Though their family has encouraged them to delete Facebook, they keep it to stay connected.
But words are not the only way in which the couple has been hurt. Though the $135,000 they were awarded in their successful discrimination case is tied up in a government account while the case is appealed by the bakery’s owners, the family was allegedly denied food assistance during tough times because the worker recognized their names and believed they had come into money.
That same notoriety made it difficult to find housing and caused them to worry that their case had sparked backlash across the United States and elsewhere:
The Bowman-Cryers try to shrug off the messages that call them fat and ugly. What they can’t handle is the guilt, the nagging feeling that they’ve made life worse for gay people elsewhere. Were they responsible for the proposed laws in the South? For abuse in the Middle East?
It was never just a cake, the 32-year-old women realize now.
But after three years in relative hiding, the couple says silence hasn’t protected them. And with the bakery owners pushing for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the nightmare isn’t likely to end soon. So they are sharing their story and hoping for the best.
Watch the couple read the hate mail they have received below and check out the full, moving story at The Oregonian.