Oregon Bakers to Pay Up to $150K for Refusing Lesbian Couple a Wedding Cake

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) announced Monday that the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery must pay a lesbian couple up to $150,000 for refusing to sell them a wedding cake.

According to KGW.com, BOLI spokesman Charlie Burr said there was sufficient evidence that the bakers discriminated against the same-sex couple, and that the exact amount of the penalty will be determined at a hearing on March 10.

In January of 2013, Laurel Bowman said the bakery would not sell her and her fiancée, Rachel Cryer, a wedding cake. She added that Aaron Klein, co-owner of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, told her providing them with a wedding cake would be against their religious principles.

Subsequently, Bowman filed an anti-discrimination complaint with BOLI, charging that the bakery violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which protects LGBT individuals.

“Oregonians may not be denied service based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Burr said. “The law provides an exemption for religious organizations and schools, but does not allow private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.”

In his ruling, Judge Alan McCullough claimed that “requiring [the Kleins] to provide a wedding cake for Complainants does not constitute compelled speech.”

In response to the ruling, however, Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins wrote in his Washington Update column that “in the battle over marriage, [the Kleins’] First Amendment rights no longer counted.”

Perkins continued:

Unfortunately for the parents of five, wedding vendors like them may soon have no choice. In the free market, the courts no longer seem to recognize the right to believe what you want. Owners of small businesses like Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Arlene’s Flowers, Simply Elegant Wedding Planning, Hands On Originals, and others are seen as nothing more than tools of the government to think and believe as the state sees fit. If they refuse, as Aaron and Melissa have done, Oregon is threatening to bring the full weight of the government to bear.

The Kleins already closed their bakery in December of 2013 because of overwhelming publicity as a result of the case.

According to Oregon Live, Anna Harmon, one of the Kleins’ attorneys, said, “The (administrative law judge) recognized that all of the State’s claims but one were baseless and not supported by the facts of the case.”

“We view this as a partial victory,” Harmon continued. “However, the (judge) ruled wrongly that the Kleins’ right not to design and create a work of art celebrating an event which violates the tenets of their religion is not protected by the Oregon or Federal Constitutions.”

“This is a wrong and dangerous result for religious liberty and rights of conscience in Oregon…” she said. “Americans should not have to choose between adhering to their faith or closing their business, but that is what this decision means.”


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