GRESHAM, Ore. — The owners of a Christian bakery in Oregon who were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages to two lesbians who claimed that they suffered emotionally after they were told that the bakery could not make a cake for their ceremony will be seeking a stay of the order as they plan to appeal the matter.
According to reports, Aaron and Melissa Klein, who operate Sweet Cakes by Melissa from their home, have until Monday to inform the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) whether they wish to pay the amount in full, seek installments or request a stay of the order while the case is appealed.
“[A stay of enforcement] means that they would pay nothing until the court of appeals has a chance to weigh in,” Communications Director Charlie Burr told reporters.
Commissioner Brad Avakian, who issued the $135,000 order, will make the decision on whether or not the stay will be granted. If not, and the Kleins refuse to pay, the couple says that a lien could be placed on their home or their wages could be garnished.
As previously reported, the situation began in January 2013 when 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 BOLI 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 had expressed concern prior to the ruling that if they were forced to pay a fine for declining the cake over their Christian convictions, the penalty would “definitely” bankrupt the family.
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 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.”
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.
In April, Alan McCullough, an administrative judge with the bureau, recommended a payment of $135,000, with one of the women receiving $75,000 and the other $60,000. Prosecutors had sought damages of $75,000 each.
Last month, BOLI officially accepted McCollough’s recommendation and ordered the Kleins to pay the women $135,000 in light of the damages Cryer and Bowman listed.
“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage,” the final order, written by Commissioner Brad Avakian, read. “It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.”
The couple had until July 13 to inform BOLI whether they would pay in full, seek payment installments or request a stay of the order as they appeal. The Kleins state that they will fight the order and are determined not to pay a single cent.
“I will not relent,” Aaron Klein told reporters. “I will use every legal remedy I have to make sure that this man cannot do this to me, cannot do it to my wife, cannot do it to my five children, cannot do it to any other American.”