GRESHAM, Ore. — Media outlets that asserted that the owners of a Christian bakery in Oregon were not ordered to pay damages for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian’s same-sex ceremony, but were rather punished for “publishing” the women’s addresses, are retracting their claims and apologizing for disseminating inaccurate information.
Raw Story published an article last week entitled “Oregon Bakers Weren’t Fined Over Cake, They Were Punished for Sharing Lesbian Couple’s Home Address.” It noted that it obtained the information from a column called “Love, Joy, Feminism” posted on Patheos, which likewise asserted that the damages the bakers were ordered to pay were reflective of the address incident.
However, while the order issued by Brad Avakian of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries briefly mentions the instance, he specifically refused to grant the women’s request for additional damages over their claim that exposure in the media and on social media caused them emotional distress.
“The commissioner concludes that complainants’ emotional harm related to the denial of service throughout the period of media attention and that the facts related solely to emotional harm resulting from media attention do not adequately support an award of damages,” Avakian wrote.
“In this case, the ALJ proposed that $75,000 and $60,000 are appropriate awards to compensate complainants … respectively for the emotional suffering they experienced from respondents’ denial of service,” he continued.
Avakian also explained that one woman was awarded less because “she was not present at the denial and the ALJ found her testimony about the extent and severity of her emotional suffering to be exaggerated in some respects.”
As previously reported, the two women had submitted individual lists of just under 100 aspects of suffering from the denial in order to receive the requested damages. They included “acute loss of confidence,” “doubt,” “distrust of men,” “distrust of former friends,” “excessive sleep,” “discomfort,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “loss of pride,” “mental rape,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock” “stunned,” “surprise,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain” and “worry.”
The order from BOLI outlines that the complaint form that one of the women completed included a disclaimer noting that once submitted, their information would now become “subject to Oregon’s public records law.” This means that the personal address and phone number that was supplied might be able to be seen by the public and Aaron and Melissa Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
However, the woman says that because she submitted the form via her Smartphone, the disclaimer “was not visible.”
Therefore, upon submission, a complete copy of the women’s consumer complaint against was sent to the Kleins. Aaron Klein, who had just recently created a Facebook page and had only 17 friends at that time, posted the complaint to show his friends, “[T]his is what happens when you tell gay people you won’t do their wedding cake.”
Klein tells reporters that he was not aware that the women’s personal addresses were included in the document/not redacted and deleted the post when he was made aware as Facebook deactivated his page.
“I did not even realize the address [and] phone number was on there,” Aaron Klein told The Blaze. “I got it around noon. I put it on my Facebook page around two. Facebook got a complaint from [the couple’s attorney] and [Facebook] pulled it down before five. They pulled my page down.”
When Klein’s page was restored, he posted, “I was just notified that the [complainants’] info was on the document I posted. Totally didn’t think about that, was a mistake and I apologize. I hope nobody used it for anything bad.”
The order also notes that after the media became aware of the situation, one of the women’s friends shared a news article on Facebook, and divulged that the women had children. One of the women immediately contacted her, stating, “I know you were trying to defend us, but you released information about our kids. The public doesn’t know we have kids. That is the whole point of being silent. Please remove your comment immediately.”
Press releases were issued by the women’s attorney about the consumer complaint, who thanked reporters for their interest in the case, but asked that the women’s names not be published. BOLI also issued details on the case and the filing to the press.
The women state that because the matter was in the media, which began contacting both them and the Kleins for comment, they received a number of negative and inappropriate comments from the public. They assert that it caused them emotional distress and potentially harmed their reputation.
But while BOLI concluded that the Kleins were “guilty” of discrimination for declining to supply the cake for the lesbian’s same-sex event, and were willing to award the women $135,000 in damages for emotional distress for the denial, it ultimately refused the women any additional damages for the Facebook incident nor surrounding the matter having been in the media.
Raw Story and “Love, Joy, Feminism” have now corrected their stories and acknowledged the error in their original reporting, which claimed that the $135,000 damages pertained to matters other than the denial.
“An earlier version of this article contained a significant error that resulted from failure to distinguish the difference between the agency’s recommendation and the commissioner’s final ruling,” Raw Story wrote in a footnote after changing the title of their article. “The bakers were not, as previously reported, punished for threats by others against the couple, as the agency had recommended. They were ordered by the commissioner to pay damages to the couple for emotional harm caused by their unlawful discrimination. We regret the error…”
The BOLI order may be read in its entirety here.