The anti-gay Christian owners of a Portland-area bakery that refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple in 2013 have been ordered to pay US$135,000 in damages.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) on Thursday ruled that Sweet Cakes by Melissa’s refusal to bake a wedding cake for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer constituted unlawful discrimination.
The agency ordered owners Aaron and Melissa Klein to pay Laurel US $60,000 in damages and $75,000 to Rachel for ’emotional suffering.’
The Kleins had rejected an administrative law judge’s proposal in April 2015 to pay the same amount.
Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian issued the final order July 2, according to KGW Portland.
It quoted BOLI spokesman Charlie Burr as saying that the US$135,000 award is comparable to other similar cases and is not the largest equality act ruling the state has seen ‘by a long shot.’
‘This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage,’ the final order read.
‘It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.’
The bakers have defended their refusal to bake the couple a cake saying their religious beliefs prevented them from doing so.
BOLI however said a state exemption for religious organizations and schools does not allow private business owners to deny service to potential customers on the basis of sexual orientation.
According to the agency, the lesbian couple suffered great angst.
One ‘felt depressed and questioned whether there was something inherently wrong with the sexual orientation she was born with’, and had ‘difficulty controlling her emotions and cried a lot.’
The other ‘experienced extreme anger, outrage, embarrassment, exhaustion, frustration, intense sorrow and shame’ simply because the Kleins refused to provide them with a wedding cake.
Aaron, the co-owner of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, said he plans to file an appeal with the Oregon Court of Appeal.
In April 2015, GoFundMe shut down the crowdfunding page launched by the Kleins after they raised nearly US$110,000 in donations.
The company said the campaign was disabled as they were found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. It said at the time the Kleins will be allowed to withdraw the funds they have raised.