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Gay rights activist fundraising to help anti-gay bakery owners pay their US$150,000 fine

Gay rights activist fundraising to help anti-gay bakery owners pay their US$150,000 fine

In 2013 Melissa and Aaron Klein, who own a bakery in Portland, Oregon, refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding.

They now face a fine in excess of US$150,000 after the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries found ‘substantial evidence’ that they had discriminated against the lesbian couple.

Matt Stolhandske, a self-described evangelical Christian and board member of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, on Friday wrote in a column published on the Washington Post website explaining why he is raising money in hopes of covering the fine.

He wrote, ‘The Kleins say the $150,000 fee will bankrupt her family. I’m raising money to help offset that cost. I’ll send whatever we raise along to the Klein family with a message of love and peace. I don’t want them to suffer. But I am also pleading with them and other Christians to stop using the name of Jesus to explain to the LGBT community why we don’t deserve access to the civil rights afforded to heterosexuals through the legal institution of marriage.’

Citing his Christian faith, Aaron Klein, said at the time, ‘I didn’t want to be a part of her marriage, which I think is wrong.’

They assert that they were expressing their religious freedom when they turned down the couple’s order.

The couple, who has five children and now run their baking business from their home, in is the process of appealing the decision by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Stolhandske says he hopes the Kleins will accept this sign of good will. ‘After all, they must see that our goals here are the same — to live our lives as we see fit and be treated equally under the law.’

He added that he expects criticism from the gay community for extending an ‘olive branch.’

‘"You’re an apologist for homophobes," they tell me. "How can you reward this anti-gay behavior? Who next will they choose not to serve? African Americans? Single mothers? Muslims? We cannot support this." To them I say: this is what an olive branch looks like. I am not rewarding their behavior, but rather loving them in spite of it.’

Since the column was published, Stolhandske wrote on Facebook that the group is having ‘a bit of trouble on the fundraising front.’

‘This is more about the principle than it is about the dollar amount, so please just raise your voices with me (if you agree with what I’ve written) and contribute $1-5. I’m hoping to get at least 250 people to give just a tiny amount.’

Visit https://rally.org/this-is-love for details or to contribute.