The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, an Oregon bakery, are refusing to pay a $135,000 state-imposed fine for declining to make a cake for a lesbian wedding.
In early July, after a protracted procedural history, the commissioner of the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries ordered owners Melissa and Aaron Klein to pay the six-figure award to the same-sex couple for emotional and mental suffering resulting from the denial of service.
In the midst of the controversy that prompted national headlines, the Kleins closed their storefront located near Portland, and now operate the bakery from their home.
The legal wrangling got started when the bakery owners, who are Christians, declined a repeat customer’s order for a same-sex wedding cake in early 2013 because they believe in traditional marriage. The gay couple filed a complaint under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Kleins, who have five children, claim that the government is violating their constitutionally protected right to religious freedom under the First Amendment.
“Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries…contended that the owners violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws because the shop, in the Portland area, is not a registered religious institution,” the Daily Mail explained.
At the time the fine was assessed in July, Aaron Klein declared, in reference to BOLI Commissioner Brad Avakian, that “he wants to silence anyone who opposes his point of view. Unfortunately, he’s doing this with the wrong Christian, because I fight back.”
Parenthetically, Ace of Cakes TV star Duff Goldman wound up making the cake for the same-sex wedding ceremony for free.
In 2004, Oregon voters amended the state’s constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. In May, 2014, a federal judge ruled that the voter-approved amendment was unconstitutional. In June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling legalized gay marriage in all 50 states.
Paying the fine would lead to the couple’s “financial ruin,” according to their lawyer, Willamette Week reported.
The Kleins have raised about $500,000 through crowdfunding and are also appealing the agency decision to the Oregon court of appeals.
A spokesman for the Bureau of Labor and Industries told The Oregonian that “It’s difficult to understand the Kleins’ unwillingness to pay the debt when they have, very publicly, raised nearly a half million dollars. They are entitled to a full and fair review of the case, but do not have the right to disregard a legally binding order.”
In a Facebook post, Sweet Cakes by Melissa responded to media accounts about the unpaid fine.
“A recent news story states that we have not yet paid the $135,000 in damages the Bureau of Labor and Industries demanded that we pay. At this point, we aren’t going to comment publicly about this story because it concerns matters that are attorney-client privileged and relate to the strategy of our case going forward. As we said a few months ago, we are having to be cautious and wise in our use of the funds raised on our behalf because of potential tax liability and other variables over which we have no control. Again, we’re so humbled and thankful for all of the kindness and support you have shown to us. We’re still as committed as ever to standing firm for truth and liberty.”
In August, the Kleins baked 10 cakes and mailed them to LGBT groups. “We wanted to have the cake represent freedom — that we all should have freedom and to live our lives the way we want to,” Melissa Klein remarked.
Do you think that Sweet Cakes by Melissa owners Aaron and Melissa Klein should pay the state-ordered money damages for refusing to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding while their appeal is working its way through the Oregon court system?
[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images News]