The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, the Oregon bakery that made headlines in 2013 for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, are now refusing to pay $135,000 in fines levied against them in connection with the case, the Oregonian is reporting.
In January, 2013, according to Willamette Week, Rachel Cryer — who claims she had long been a customer of the Oregon bakery and had always gotten along with its owner, Melissa Klein — went to the bakery in Gresham, Oregon, along with her mother and partner, and asked about a cake for her upcoming wedding to her partner, Laurel Bowman.
— CynthiaSpeaks (@CynthiaSpeaks) July 7, 2015
Aaron Klein, wife of Melissa and co-owner of the bakery, declined. Citing his religious beliefs, Klein said the bakery would not bake a cake for the lesbian couple because their beliefs do not support gay marriage.
“I was just humiliated that this happened in front of my mom, whom I spent all these years trying to convince that we deserved equal accommodation, and we deserve rights, and we deserve to be able to get married. I was crying and she was trying to console me.”
The couple eventually filed a complaint with Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), claiming that the bakery’s actions violated a 2007 Oregon law which, according to the New York Daily News, protects gay, lesbian, and transgender Oregonians from discrimination in places of public accommodation.
As the news of the bakery’s refusal — and resulting legal trouble — spread across the country, the Oregon bakery’s case became emblematic of the larger issue of the rights of gay customers to receive service vs. the rights of business owners to legally refuse to do business with gay customers on religious grounds.
Eventually, the bakery owners would be ordered to pay $135,000 in fines to the couple. It should be noted that the fine resulted not just from the bakery refusing to bake the cake, but from Aaron Klein’s having published the lesbian couple’s photo, home address, and telephone number on his Facebook page.
The Kleins, however, have no intention of paying the fine, says the Oregonian. The bakers, who have since closed the brick-and-mortar bakery (they claim that the negative press, as well as boycotts and vandalism, forced them to close) and operate out of their home, say that paying the $135,000 fine would ruin them financially, despite the fact that the family has raised over half a million dollars from crowdfunding.
A series of emails between BOLI agent Jean Gaddis, and Klein attorneys Hebert Grey, Tyler Smith, and Anna Harmon, makes it clear that the bakers don’t intend to pay, or take any steps to make payment arrangements. In an August 6 email, Gaddis asked the bakers’ attorneys to produce either a bond or an irrevocable letter of credit — that is, a financial instrument guaranteeing payment. The Kleins’ attorney responded that his clients don’t have one, and won’t be getting one. Gaddis was not impressed.
“Please inform the agency of when your clients will tender payment. Otherwise we have no other option but to docket the judgement against them. It is unfortunate that they will not seek the bond or irrevocable letter of credit, that you had initially stated they were interested in seeking, when they have clearly raised close to $500,000 with which to pay the damage award.”
With their consistent refusal to pay, the next step for BOLI could be to place liens against the bakers’ personal property, although whether or not that will happen is far from clear as of this post.
Do you think the Oregon bakery should be forced to pay for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple?
[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock / Ivonne Wierink]