PORTLAND, Ore. — Officials in Oregon have moved to take the home and/or other assets of a Christian couple as they are refusing to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to two lesbian women that filed a complaint after the couple declined to make a cake at their bakery for their “wedding” ceremony.
As previously reported, in February, a judge with the Oregon BOLI declared Aaron and Melissa Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa guilty of discrimination for declining to make the cake because of their Christian convictions, thus moving the matter into the sentencing phase.
The two lesbian women, 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.
In June, 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 Kleins then asked for a stay of the order, but were denied. As they are refusing to pay the damages, officials have moved to docket the judgment and seek permission to place a property lien against the Kleins or collect the money in other ways.
“It’s difficult to understand the Kleins’ unwillingness to pay the debt when they have, very publicly, raised nearly a half million dollars,” Charlie Burr, communications director for BOLI, told reporters. “They are entitled to a full and fair review of the case, but do not have the right to disregard a legally binding order.”
But the Kleins’ state that the amount that Burr suggests the couple has raised from supporters is inflated, and regardless, the money will not be used to pay the women.
“[T]here are so many variables to where that money has to go, what has to happen with that money, that we’re not touching that money for any purpose because I don’t know what the future holds,” Aaron Klein told the Daily Signal.
He also pointed to statements the women made to Williamette Week earlier this year contending that the complaint they filed against the Kleins was not about money.
“We didn’t have a choice in how this was prosecuted,” Cryer told the outlet. “We didn’t have a choice in the fine. If we had been given the option, we probably would have said: ‘Just apologize. Just say you’re sorry and go away.’”
“[W]e’re not asking for anything. We’ve never asked for a penny from anybody,” Bowman added.
“When you have these girls come out and say we never wanted the money, it wasn’t about the money and we don’t need the money,” Klein told the Daily Signal, “I say this isn’t right. I shouldn’t have to pay this money, and the only person saying the money should exchange hands seems to be [BOLI Commissioner] Brad Avakian.”
As previously reported, some outlets had claimed this past summer that the Kleins were not ordered to pay damages for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian’s same-sex ceremony, but were rather punished for inadvertently “publishing” the women’s addresses on Facebook by uploading the filed consumer complaint on their new personal page that only had 17 friends at the time. As the assertions were inaccurate since the Kleins were solely ordered to pay emotional damages surrounding the denial of the cake, the outlets retracted their claims and apologized for disseminating the information.