Sweet Cakes by Melissa

‘We lost everything’: Christian bakers fined $135K for refusing to make lesbian couple’s wedding cake

On Thursday, the Oregon Court of Appeals announced they would uphold a $135,000 fine against a Gresham-based bakery who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

According to the Portland Tribune, the Court agreed with the Bureau of Labor and Industries’ (BOLI) determination that Sweet Cakes by Melissa violated Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer’s civil rights when they refused to bake them a cake due to their sexual orientation.

The story went national in January 2013, leading BOLI Commissioner Brad Avakian to levy the hefty fine against Sweet Cakes owners Aaron and Melissa Klein. At the time, Avakian awarded the couple damages for emotional distress, according to the newspaper.

Though the Kleins paid off the fine in December 2015, KOIN reported that the state agency was holding onto the money until all legal issues were settled.

In Thursday’s ruling, which can be read below, the Court of Appeals rejected an argument from Aaron and Melissa Klein that being required to bake the wedding cake violated their First Amendment right to free speech and religion.

However, the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 prohibits businesses from denying service to or discriminating against a customer due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Kleins claimed that they closed their business months after the ordeal due to widespread backlash. Though online donations allowed the couple to operate their bakery from home, Melissa claimed she has since ended her online business.

“We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build,” she told KUTV.

“I loved my shop. It meant everything to me and losing it has been so hard for me and my family.”

The Oregonian reported that the bakery owners claimed the fine was excessive and accused the Commissioner of being biased against them.

Meanwhile, Judge Chris Garrett opined that the Kleins’ religious rights weren’t violated because they were required to comply with a” neutral law.” He also wrote that the couple failed to prove that the state was targeting them due to their religious beliefs.

The Court of Appeals also determined that Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer suffered emotional distress that “was not inconsistent with awards in other BOLI enforcement actions.” They did dismiss Avakian’s argument that there was enough evidence to indicate that the Klein’s intended to continue their discrimination. However, the Commissioner didn’t fine the Kleins based on that determination.

“For the past 10 years, the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 has protected Oregonians from unlawful discrimination in housing, employment, and public places,” Avakian said in a statement.

“Today’s ruling sends a strong signal that Oregon remains open to all.”

[Featured Image: Melissa and Aaron Klein/KOIN]