Published On: Mon, Jul 6th, 2015

Oregon bakers hit with $135K fine for refusing same-sex wedding order

A bakery in Gresham, Oregon, which refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple has been ordered by the state government to pay $135,000 in damages.

Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled on that Sweetcakes by Melissa, owned by couple Melissa Elaine and Aaron Wayne Klein, violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when it refused to make a wedding cake for lesbian couple Laurel Bowman-Cryer and Rachel Bowman-Cryer in January 2013.

The bureau’s final order awarded $60,000 to Laurel and $75,000 to Rachel for “emotional damage” from the unlawful discrimination.

Under Oregon law, the bureau said, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion.

The case stemmed from a visit to Sweetcakes by Melissa by Rachel and her mom, Cheryl McPherson, on Jan. 17, 2013.

The two went to the bakery for the cake-tasting appointment and met Aaron. He asked for the names of the bride and groom and Rachel told him that there would be two brides and their names were “Rachel and Laurel.”

Klein then told them that Sweetcakes did not make wedding cakes for same-sex couples because of their religious belief.

Laurel and Rachel filed discrimination case against Sweetcakes by Melissa.

"Lesbian" wedding mock-cake at the Roma Gay Pride in 2008. Picture by Stefano Bolognini via wikimedia commons.

“Lesbian” wedding mock-cake at the Roma Gay Pride in 2008. Picture by Stefano Bolognini via wikimedia commons.

In the final order, the state’s labor bureau said the case is not about a wedding cake or marriage.

“It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation,” it said. “Under Oregon law, that is illegal. Within Oregon’s public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, has the freedom to fully participate in society—the ability to enter public places, to shop, to dine, to move about unfettered by bigotry.”

The bureau also ordered the Klein couple to “cease and desist from denying the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of Sweetcakes by Melissa to any person based on that person’s sexual orientation.”

The Kleins can appeal the decision with the Oregon Court of Appeals, the bureau said.

The bakery owners denounced the decision in a Facebook post.

“The final ruling has been made today. We have been charged with $135,000 in emotional damages, But also now Aaron has been charged with advertising (Basically talking about not wanting to participate in a same-sex wedding). This effectively strips us of all our first amendment rights,” they said.

“According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech. We will NOT give up this fight, and we will NOT be silenced. We stand for God’s truth, God’s word and freedom for ALL Americans. We are here to obey God not man, and we will not conform to this world. If we were to lose everything it would be totally worth it for our Lord who gave his one and only son, Jesus, for us! God will win this fight.”

The post has since been deleted.

The order noted that the non-economic damages are consistent with the labor bureau’s previous orders. For instance, it awarded a Christian employee $325,000 in damages for physical, mental and emotion suffering due to religious discrimination and harassment by a Bend dentist.

Complaints under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 are rare, the bureau said. It has found substantial evidence of violations in only seven investigations of Equality Act accommodations complaints in the seven years since the law took effect.




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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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