GRESHAM, Ore. — An administrative judge in Oregon has recommended that a Christian couple pay $135,000 in damages to two lesbians for declining to make a cake for their same-sex “wedding” due to their religious convictions.
As previously reported, Aaron and Melissa Klein operate Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, which is now operated from the couple’s home after the Kleins’ shut their doors due to harassment. In January 2013, Aaron was approached by a mother and her daughter as the two were interested in a cake for the daughter’s upcoming wedding—to her lesbian partner.
“My first question was what’s the wedding date,” Klein told television station KTW in Portland. “My next question was [the] bride and groom’s name. … The girl giggled a little bit and said, ‘It’s two brides.’”
He then informed the women that the bakery does not make cakes for homosexual events.
“I apologized for wasting their time and said that, unfortunately, we do not do same-sex marriages,” Klein explained.
The women left Sweet Cakes upset about the incident, and later, one of them filed a complaint with the state. The Oregon attorney general’s office soon launched an investigation against the Klein’s as the state’s non-discrimination laws prevent public accommodations from being denied to any individual on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex [or] sexual orientation.”
But Klein states that he regularly serves homosexuals. He believes that there is a difference between serving homosexuals in general and having to personally facilitate same-sex ceremonies, which is an act of participation.
“I have customers come in almost on a weekly basis that are homosexual,” he said. “They can buy my stuff. I sell stuff. I talk with them. That’s fine. … This was not the first time we’ve served these girls.”
“We were being asked to participate in something that we could not participate in,” Klein’s wife, Melissa, noted.
Some Christians believe that being a part of a same-sex event violates the biblical command in 1 Timothy 5:22 not to be “partakers in other men’s sins,” as well as the command in Ephesians 5:7, “Be not ye therefore partakers with them.”
In February, a judge with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled that the Christian bakers are guilty of discrimination for declining to make the cake, thus moving the matter into the sentencing phase. The Kleins have expressed concern for months that if they were forced to pay a fine for declining the cake over their Christian convictions, the penalty would “definitely” bankrupt the family. Speculations were that the fine could range from $75,000 to $150,000.
On Friday, Alan McCullough, an administrative judge with the bureau, recommended a fine of $135,000, with one of the women receiving $75,000 and the other $60,000. Prosecutors had sought damages of $75,000 each.
According to the Daily Signal, the two women, who have been identified as Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, submitted individual lists of just under 100 aspects of suffering in order to receive the 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,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock” “stunned,” “surprise,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain” and “worry.”
But the Kleins told the court that they too had suffered because of the attacks that they received over their desire to live out their Christian faith in the workplace. They stated that they endured “mafia tactics” as their car was vandalized and broken into on two occasions, their vendors were harassed by homosexual advocates resulting in some businesses breaking ties with them, and they received threatening emails wishing rape, death and Hell upon the family. As a result, they had to close their business and move it into their private home.
Anna Harmon, one of the attorney representing the Kleins states that now the $135,000 fine will harm the family even more.
“Their business is gone,” she told reporters. “They don’t have business assets, so when we talk about [the fine], it’s personal. It means that’s money they would have used to feed their children that they can’t use anymore.”
“It’s a shocking result and it shows the state’s relentless campaign to punish Oregonians who live and work according to their faith,” Harmon said.
“This amount will financially ruin us,” Aaron Klein states. “Our government was put in place to protect the people, not to punish people because of their faith.”
The penalty is not final and must be approved by the state labor commissioner before being officially ordered against the couple.