PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) — The owners of a Gresham bakery who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding must pay $135,000 in damages, according to a final order issued by the Bureau of Labor and Industries on Thursday.
The situation began in 2013 and generated headlines around the country.
The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who closed their shop months after the controversy began, refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple, citing a conflict with their religious beliefs.
“I asked for the name of the bride and groom. She informed me that it was two brides. And I literally apologized to her. I said I’m sorry, I didn’t’t mean to waste your time,” said Aaron Klein, who owned the bakery with his wife, Melissa.
The business owners did not hide their religious beliefs. A Bible sat on top of a bakery display case and the business website says, “We here at Sweet Cakes strongly believe that when a man and woman come together to be joined as one, it is truly one of the most special days of their lives.”
“The one thing I would like to try to get across or maybe for people to understand is that it’s not anything against homosexuals, it has to do with our lives and our lifestyle and our walk with Christ,” Melissa Klein told FOX 12 in 2013. “I feel, just like they should be able to live their life the way they want to, I should also be able to live the way I want to.”
Sweet Cakes continues to operate through its website.
On Thursday, a BOLI order awarded $60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer for “emotional suffering stemming directly from unlawful discrimination.”
“For this to go this far, it’s ridiculous. It should scare every American,” said Aaron Klein.
The amounts are damages related to the harm suffered by the women, according to BOLI, not fines or civil penalties.
“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,” according to a BOLI statement.
The Oregon Equality Act of 2007 includes an exemption for religious organizations and schools, but does not allow private business owners to deny service and unlawfully discriminate against potential customers, according to BOLI.
“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal,” the final BOLI order states.
Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer released a statement after BOLI’s decision Thursday saying they have endured “daily, hateful attacks on social media” including death threats.
“This has been a horrible ordeal for our entire family. We never imagined finding ourselves caught up in a fight for social justice. We knew it was on us to set an example for our two kids – to stand up for what is right,” the statement said.
The owners of Sweet Cakes may now file an appeal with the Oregon Court of Appeals.