Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Oregon-based owners of Sweet Cakes Bakery, learned Friday that the judge overseeing the sentencing of their discrimination conviction recommended a $135,000 payment to the lesbian couple which was refused service.
The backstory: two years ago, the bakery refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, citing religious beliefs. In January, 2014, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries brought charges against them for violating Oregon’s Equality Act of 2007. They were found guilty in January, 2015, with a financial penalty potential of up to $150,000, to be determined at a later date.
The judge’s recommendation was issued Friday. In a statement on the ruling, which awards $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, for “emotional suffering,” the Bureau of Labor and Industries said this:
The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the complainants. Under Oregon law, 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. Our agency is committed to fair and thorough enforcement of Oregon civil rights laws, including the Equality Act of 2007.
The amounts are damages related to the harm suffered by the Complainants, not fines or civil penalties which are punitive in nature.
According to the Washington Times, the order is not final and both sides have 10 days in which to respond before a final amount is issued by the labor commissioner. Also, either party could appeal the decision via an appeals court.
Melissa is clearly distraught about the decision in an interview she did for The Daily Signal:
In an interview with the Family Research Council, the Kleins responded to the news:
It’s very discouraging. This is not money coming from a business, this is not money coming from an insurance fund, this is money coming straight from our bank account.
This is money that should be used to pay my mortgage, money that should be used to feed our kids, not something that should be given to others. This is a decision I made because of my faith, and now the government is now saying it doesn’t matter, your kids can suffer for it as well.
You have unsubstantiated emotional damages — that’s what this came down to. There was never any physical or financial harm done to the plaintiffs. This was specifically to emotional damages. It takes a lot to explain where $135,000 comes from.
Immediately after the ruling was issued, the Facebook page for the bakery announced that a GoFundMe account was set up but a subsequent post stated that it was shut down:
This is what is written:
“The gofundme account that was set up to help our family was shut down by the administrators of gofundme because they claimed it was raising money for an illegal purpose. We have told gofundme that the money is simply going to be used to help our family, and there is no legitimate breach of their terms and conditions. We are working to get the account reinstated.
However, in the mean time, if you would like to donate, you can do so here: http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/christian-couple-faces-135000-fine/ For all of you who gave to the gofundme account before it was shut down, we so appreciate your love and generosity. Gofundme has told us that we will still receive those funds.”
There is a donation page that people are taken to upon following the link: