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Oregon bakery ordered to pay $135K for refusing same-sex wedding cake

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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.

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56 comments

  • Morris Ryan

    Not only were they stripped of their right to freedom of religion they have been stripped of their right to free speech. State Silences Bakers Who Refused to Make Cake for Lesbian Couple, Fines Them $135K
    News: Oregon ordered the Kleins to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.

    • VoiceOfReason

      Clearly the gays/lesbians believe their beliefs and right s trump other peoples. They expect others to respect and be sympathetic to their beliefs then want to stomp on others belief’s.

    • Raytheist

      They were not stripped of their right to freedom of religion. They remain free to believe as they wish, and live their lives as they wish. They just came up against a hard truth and fact of life: when you accept a business license to operate a business open to the public, you don’t get to hide behind religion in order to violate the law and discriminate against others. It was never about their religion, or cakes, or weddings. It was about their desire to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

  • VoiceOfReason

    Gold diggers looking to make $$’s. How were they damaged? They could choose one of hundreds of other bakeries. The bakery should sue the for damages of having to close. I have no problem with gays/lesbians but this belief of entitlement turns me off to supporting their cause.

        • Jim Fedele

          BOLI seems like an agency that would have fit in perfectly in the old Soviet Union. Next will be re-education camps. This judge is a bolshevik and needs to be removed from office. He is an enemy of our natural rights.

    • gmlaster

      Then clearly, you’ve never suffered discrimination. Because if you’d ever had someone refuse you service because they objected to your existence, how they were damaged would be blatantly obvious to you. Why should they have to choose another bakery? They wanted that bakery and there was no legal reason why they shouldn’t have been served if they had the money. And while I realize that the word “entitlement” is an emotional hot button word for you, in this instance, it means they’re ENTITLED to be treated like everyone else. If you’re an American citizen, you’re ” entitled” to equal treatment under the law, and you’re required to serve others as you yourself would expect to be served. Stop looking down on others for demanding to be treated the way you yourself would expect to be treated.

      You reject the word “entitlement” because to you, it’s synonymous with the word “handout”. But even if you’re homeless or unemployed, if you’ve ever so much as bought a roll of toilet paper, then you’ve paid sales taxes, so you’re a taxpayer. Every American consumer pays taxes. And you’re “entitled” to have some of your tax money spent the way you want and on what you need. You can’t “hand out” what’s already mine. If I want my tax money used to help me when I’m down on my luck, or to help others who are less fortunate because I’m COMPASSIONATE, I’m “entitled” to having at least some of it spent as I see fit because I coughed up my fair share of taxes to help pay my country’s bills. To be entitled to something means it’s yours. You earned it. You deserve it. Look it up. Entitlement is not the dirty word you want it to be.

      • VoiceOfReason

        You seem to be under the false impression that life is fair. It never has been and never will be. Nobody is entitled to get everything they want. We learn that as a toddler. You can choose to be a victim, blame others and whine and cry or hold your head high and move on. I have a number of gay friends in the latter camp and they’re great people and very successful. I also know others that believe the world owes them for all the wrongs, real or perceived, that have been done to them. What about all the bakers who put their effort into building their business? Aren’t they entitled to something? For the record I have been discriminated against. That’s life, deal with it.

        • Raytheist

          Sure, life isn’t always fair, and everyone gets some bumps and knocks along the way, But some people, as evidenced by these self-righteous hyper-religious business owners insisting discrimination is acceptable, are deliberately going out of their way to MAKE SURE life isn’t fair for others. There is no part of the Christian faith that promotes Pharisaical attitudes or conduct in public. Such business owners think they’ll get a reward in heaven for being abusive to others on earth, but karma always manages to work just fine on earth. Or as Christians call it, reaping what you sow. Those who discriminate in the name of religion WILL be driven out of the market place, one way or another. In a few years, hiding behind religion to discriminate will not happen.

          • VoiceOfReason

            While I understand this particular issue has a religious aspect to it my intent was to take a step back and look at it from a broader perspective. The beauty of America is you can practice whatever religion and have whatever beliefs you want. Including those that may offend others (i.e. KKK or “hyper-religious” people). I may not agree with their beliefs but I certainly don’t want the government stepping in and telling me (or them) what I can and can’t do. In this story one groups beliefs are stepping on another’s and the government is supporting one and suppressing the other. This is a dangerous business because who knows what rights will be “outlawed” next. One can move to North Korea if they want the government to tell them what to believe and how to practice religion.

          • Raytheist

            I do (I think) understand what you’re saying, and it may seem like the government is suppressing the one and defending the other. And, if these laws were just now being invented, I might agree with you. But these anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws have been in place for decades, and they’ve been tested over the years in many different ways. It has been long established law that a business owner’s personal religious beliefs CANNOT justify denying service to a select group or protected class, while simultaneously offering the exact same service to everyone else. That’s the very definition of discrimination, and it doesn’t matter if it stems from religion or cultural bias or some other thing, it is illegal. Regarding same sex marriage, of course, the business owner’s religion isn’t actually on the table, since nobody is asking them to change their religion or act contrary to it. Baking cakes, arranging flowers, or whatever they do is not against their religion, else they wouldn’t have opened a business to do that very thing. It all comes down to the business owner’s personal animus toward gays and lesbians, their sexual orientation.

            Thomas Jefferson made it clear that there is a distinction between beliefs and the actions that flow from those beliefs. Business owners can dislike same-sex marriage all day long and nobody cares. When that belief is turn into action to discriminate one customer from another, then it is a problem. Even without the laws and ordinances, basic common decency and human dignity require treating people fairly and without bias when they come into your shop to simply conduct business, UNTIL they actually DO something that warrants them being turned away.

  • Robert

    Huh, I guess I missed sunday school class that taught me it was against my religion to bake a cake for a sinner.

      • Raytheist

        No, they do not have the right to refuse any one for any reason. It is a privately owned business that is open to the public, so it is subject to all the laws that apply to such businesses, including the Civil Rights Act from the 60s, all the public accommodations rules, and any state or local ordinances that prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

        • VoiceOfReason

          Put religion aside. Essentially you have one group forcibly pushing their beliefs on another. This is a plain and simple money grab by these gold-diggers. What damage did they suffer that warrants $135K? There are hundreds of bakeries they could of gone too, They probably saw the bibles, knew this would happen and saw $$ signs and went for it. The problem is a large majority of the population are sympathetic to the gay agenda. They’re going to push their luck by continuing to cram their “rights” and agenda down everyone’s throats and it’s going to start to backfire. I’ve always been sympathetic and my feelings are changing.

          • Raytheist

            You live in a fantasy land if you think the bakers were deliberately targetted at the outset. Just because there are Bibles and religious decorations doesn’t automatically mean the owner is a bigot. That fact didn’t come out until Mr. Klein said “We don’t serve queers here!”

        • Jim Fedele

          And that is the problem. title 2 of the Civil rights act was idiotic and against the natural right of free association. Govt can’t discriminate (and yet it does to this day) and can’t force private citizens to discriminate. This we all agree with and is constitutions. The problem becomes with private people mutually agreeing on a contract (market transaction). The govt has in essence said sellers can’t discriminate (for some people others is still ok like for political views or not wearing a shirt) but buyers can discriminate (you do it all the time in terms of where you shop, who you date and so on). I understand the need to fight Jim Crow but Jim Crow were local laws which were unconstitutional. Title 2 went way beyond that because the view was Americans are bad people and must be force to sell to blacks because they won’t. Serious folks had problem with title 2 and said how moronic it was. In a free society you have the right to decide who to do business with not the govtt. But the optics on this look bad so we trash the natural rights to make the guilty rich while folks feel better about themselves.

          • Raytheist

            Freedom of association has nothing to do with conducting a business transaction in a place of business open to the public. You take your customers as they walk in the door, and you don’t discriminate.

            Your right to freedom of association deals with your right to join (associate with) any group or organization that serves the benefits of its members, rather than the general public — like Boy Scouts, churches, Elks Lodge, Sam’s Club, etc. The government cannot prevent you or infringe upon your right to join any such association that you are otherwise eligible to join and become a part of.

        • greg

          raytheist – good post – when I walk in a place with “no firearms allowed” I am gonna suit their ass until they have no more assets – thanks

          • Raytheist

            They made it clear that the ONLY reason the refuse to make the wedding cake was because of their prejudice against the customer’s sexual orientation. No matter how fancy his words, there’s just no polite way to say “We don’t serve your kind.” The BOLI confirmed that their bias was the customer’s sexual orientation, and not their religion.

    • Brian Lynch

      They absolutely have the right to their religious beliefs…they just do not have the right to deny a service that they provide to others based on sexual preference…if they don’t want to provide the service to gay people…then all they have to do is not offer it to anyone. As an example: An auto repair shop can deny a gay couple a cake for their wedding, because they do not offer that service to anyone…but that same auto repair shop cannot deny auto repair service to a gay couples car because they are gay. You see? It’s simple.
      They are provided a business license by the State…that means they agreed to follow the rules…they do not get to pick and choose which ones they follow, they have to follow ALL of them. If they don’t want to follow ALL of them…do not go into business. Once again, simple.

      • Jim Fedele

        So you are saying buyers can discriminate but sellers (at least for special groups according to the courts) can? That is ridiculous and about the furthest thing from natural rights one can get. Should we force you to shop at retailers who vote conservative or libertarian or the owners believe in sound money? Should we force you to date someone you don’t want to? This is where the nation went off the rails in the 60s. I understand the desire to end Jim Crow which should have been done in Plessy versus Ferguson but broadening no discrimination by the Govt or forced by the Govt in laws to tell private people they can’t discriminate is beyond the power of the govt. Good intentions as they were in this case are wrong. You have the right to discriminate in the marketplace as both a seller and buyer.

  • Cheryl

    Their rights are being stomped on. I can see this happening all over with the way things are going. Do those that do not want to be a part of the craziness now have to fear this constantly. Outrageous and wrong. If things keep going this way I see trouble down the line for anyone normal in this country.

  • hellomurica

    Complete and utter B.S. I am fine with SSM, and all sorts of equality, but it is a TWO WAY FREAKING STREET. These people wanted equality and to not be discriminated against based on who they are, yet they’re suing a bakery out of existence because they feel entitled to thrust who they are onto others. That’s when they cross the line in my book. Screw them for doing this. They can go somewhere else and get a damn cake. The government and law should have NO SAY WHATSOEVER when a private business decides to not offer its services or products to customers.

    • Raytheist

      The lesbian couple did not sue the Kleins. They filed a proper complaint with the appropriate state agency (BOLI) and the agency determined the appropriate fines.

      • hellomurica

        They should have just went elsewhere. Protest the bakery, whatever. That should be a businesses choice, and the fact the government steps in is authoritarian and absurd. If a business wants to discriminate against a clientele, then let them. They’ll probably wind up going under once word gets out for having a stupid policy, but the government should have no say in this.

        • Raytheist

          But it WAS the business owner’s choice. They chose to offer wedding cakes as part of their normal business. So a same-sex couple has a right to request one. A business owner has the right to choose which products and services to offer, but that offer is for any customer walking into the shop. Once the business owner decides to offer something for sale in his business, he does not get to withhold it from a certain group of customers just because he doesn’t like them. That’s the point — discrimination in business is illegal. It doesn’t matter if the business owner approves of same-sex marriage; the customers didn’t need the baker’s approval or moral judgment on their relationship and the business owner was wrong to pass moral judgment and withhold a product on that basis. I truly do not understand why this is so difficult for Christians to accept — their private religious values have nothing to do with getting to pick and choose their customers; they serve anyone who comes in with money, or they don’t serve any.

          • hellomurica

            They have a right given to them by the *government*. They do not have a *fundamental right* to force people to produce items when the people they request services from want nothing to do with them because their views are at odds with those requesting the services. That is the opposite of freedom. The fact that they pursued legal actions against them demonstrates that they are hypocrites. They wanted their rights, but screw other people’s fundamental right to not associate with those they want nothing to do with. It was WRONG. Period. The law is unjust.

          • Raytheist

            Oh, please! Go learn what “freedom of association” actually is, and where it applies. It has nothing to do with allowing business owners to discriminate against customers because of the business owners short-sighted bigotry … EVEN when they try to hide it behind a transparent screen of “religious freedom”. What people believe is their own concern; how they behave while running a business is quite another thing entirely, as the courts have consistently held. You have no case here.

      • Jim Fedele

        A State agency which would fit in fine in the old Soviet Union. What’s next Judge re-education camps or maybe taking their property and sending them to the gulags? That guy is a commie big time and should be removed from office for this attack on our natural rights.

  • mmmmmmmmm

    This is so sad. The political “correctness” is destroying this country and there is a certainly sinister scheme behind all of the “movement” and it is driven by the devil.

    • Raytheist

      Well, if you’re upset with what’s happening maybe tell your “Christian” friends to quit bullying their customers. It’s the same nonsensical garbage we went through in the 60s. Same sex couples are going to get married and they have every right to go into ANY bakery and request a cake for their celebration, or flowers from ANY florist that makes wedding arrangements. It absolutely does not matter if the business owner approves of same sex marriage or not, because their approval was not requested. If hyper-religious over-sensitive business owners want to go out of their way to swing their religion around until it hits other people, they cannot be surprised that there is a penalty for that. Discrimination is just not acceptable in society anymore.

      • VoiceOfReason

        This isn’t just about religion. Where does it end. Should a pedophile be able to shop in a children’s toy store? Can anyone that has some cause claim they have a right to be served? if you don’t like the rules of a business don’t shop there. The market will deal with businesses that have unfair or unrealistic policies.

  • Jim Fedele

    The Oregon law is unconstitutional. Govt cannot discriminate or force by law private individuals to discriminate but natural rights of free association demand the freedom for both buyers and sellers to both agree on a transaction. Forcing one side no matter what the “good intent” is simply against our natural rights. This was the fallacy in title 2 of the Civil Rights act which in effect said sellers can’t discriminate (for some groups) but buyers can. It’s ridiculous and the SC ruling that is was “constitutional” as part of the commerce clause was another bad SC decision along with Dread Scott and Wilkes versus Filburn. This isn’t about religious liberty but liberty. These folks should refuse to pay and dare the judge to put them in jail. They would become martyers to the liberty movement and evidence of the tyranny of the Govt.

    • hellomurica

      Totally agree. I think they business is owned by stupid people who are bigots, but it should be their right to be stupid bigoted people. The government should have no place forcing people to cater to clientele that the business doesn’t want to serve.

  • greg

    good precedent – when I walk in a private establishment that has “no firearms”posted, yet there are no local ordinances, I’m gonna suit them. this is great!!

  • Whitney808

    My sister is gay and I love her to death no matter what so I behave in all same sex everything. But this is wrong if you own a business they have every right to refuse customers. Is it wrong and sad yes but the truth about the owners having tHere own rights yes.

  • Jispher Askine

    Baking a wedding cake, taking wedding photographs, or supplying wedding flowers is a participation in the ceremony. You violate the person’s religious freedom by either being forcing them to or penalizing them for not participating in that ceremony.

    • Raytheist

      Nope. Wedding participants include the officiant, the couple getting married, and their best man/maid of honor and other attendants actually standing up at the front of ceremony in front of the officiant. Then there are the guests: the people sitting down observing the ceremony. After that are the wedding vendors: the people who supply the flowers, invitations, photographs/videos*, tables-and-chairs at the reception, providers of the gown and tuxedoes, etc. Vendors have NOTHING to say about the couple, the relationship, the ceremony or any other part of what’s happening; they are silent/invisible in practice even if not silent/invisible in reality.

      *Photographers/videographers do show up for the wedding and possibly the reception, but by the very nature of their profession they are outside observers merely documenting in visual form the activities of which they are not a part. Their opinion or beliefs about the event have nothing to do with anything. Their job is to document the event in the best light possible for the actual participants; their expertise is in staging, lighting, etc., NOT opining about their personal religious ideas. This is no different from the news journalist taking pictures of a car crash, or a photojournalist embedded in a combat unit — they might not like what is happening, but they remain outside observers documenting what is happening, they don’t (normally) actually get involved in it, they don’t pass judgment on the people actually involved.

      And all of these vendors are in business for profit, using their professional expertise. NONE of them is hired to dispense religious opinion or give approval for the event. Their approval is not requested or required and should not even be an issue. If a vendor doesn’t wish to provide services for same-sex weddings, they need to stop advertising that they provide services for any weddings.

      In a few years, this won’t even be an issue because society is moving forward and bigots will be left behind.

        • Raytheist

          No, they are not “part of the ceremony”. The cake isn’t (normally) anywhere near the ceremony, but at the reception which might be miles away from the ceremony itself. Flowers are decoration. Pictures are documentation of the event(s) (i.e., the wedding and the reception party afterwards). Even the gowns and tuxedos aren’t “part” of the ceremony; they are merely garments.

  • Gina

    The words “We reserve the right to refuse service”, for whatever reason, are a license to openly discriminate against anybody you don’t like, which is why it’s illegal. When you apply for a license to operate a business, you are agreeing to subject yourself to lots of laws that you may not like or agree with. You may not like health inspectors popping in looking for rats and roaches, but when you licensed your business, you agreed to allow it. Same thing here. You don’t get to reserve the right to refuse service. Whatever their reasons, what they did is a clear violation of that couple’s civil rights, which is precisely why those laws exist. They may have been created to protect African-Americans, but they have the benefit of protecting all Americans. If you’re not prepared to serve everybody, then you can’t serve anybody. Your religious beliefs don’t give you the right to refuse anyone service. This is no violation of the right to freedom of religion. You can worship however you like, but when your religious beliefs render you incapable of making a wedding cake, selling birth control pills, or whatever, that’s your personal problem. It’s illegal for you to make it the customer’s. The choice is yours to either suck it up or get out of the business of serving the public.

  • george

    Happily accept the business. Than screw up the order or whatever th job is, provide poor customer service, don’t return phone calls, act flakey, miss appointments. They’ll get fed up with poor “incompetent” service and move on to another business.

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