Oregon Christian Bakery Owners to Pay Lesbian Couple $135K

Everton Bailey Jr./The Oregonian via AP
Everton Bailey Jr./The Oregonian via AP

On Friday, Judge Alan McCullough, an administrative law judge in Oregon, doubled down on his January ruling that the bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa discriminated against a lesbian couple by refusing to bake them a wedding cake, and he added that the couple that owned the bakery, Aaron and Melissa Klein, must pay the lesbian couple $135,000 for “emotional suffering.”

The Kleins had cited their religious beliefs in their refusal to bake the cake and ultimately closed their Gresham store in 2013, choosing to operate their business from their home.

McCullough’s Friday decision can be challenged by either side by filing an exception with Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who has the final say.

In 2013, Sweet Cakes was threatened by the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) with an investigation for refusing to make the wedding cake. The store closed on August 31, 2013.

Bowman had filed a complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ). Jeff Manning, a Justice Department spokesman, advised Bowman’s lawyer to take up the matter with BOLI as it was “more of a civil rights case than a consumer protection case . . . BOLI may be the more fitting venue as the bureau has jurisdiction over civil rights cases.”

Melissa Klein had stated in August of 2013, the matter was “definitely not discrimination at all. We don’t have anything against lesbians or homosexuals. It has to do with our morals and beliefs. It’s so frustrating because we went through all of this in January, when it all came out.”

BOLI claimed Sweet Cakes might have violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which states that sexual orientation may not be used to deny service to customers.

In February 2015, BOLI announced that the Kleins would have to pay the lesbian couple as much as $150,000; KGW.com reported that BOLI spokesman Charlie Burr said that the fine would be determined at a hearing on March 10.