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Bakery Ordered To Pay $135,000 For Denying Wedding Cake To Lesbian Couple

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Bakery Ordered To Pay $135,000 For Denying Wedding Cake To Lesbian Couple


By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

The former owners of an Oregon bakery have been ordered to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple who were refused a wedding cake, in the latest front in the battle between religious liberty and individual rights.

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered Aaron and Melissa Klein, who owned the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, Ore., to compensate the couple for emotional and mental suffering that resulted from the denial of service.

The Kleins had cited their Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage in refusing to make the wedding cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer.

Avakian’s final order, issued Thursday, had been expected in the dispute that dates from 2013, one of several around the nation involving bakers, florists and photographers who have refused to provide services to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

Oregon law bars businesses from discriminating or refusing service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn away customers because of race, sex, disability, age or religion.

According to the state Bureau of Labor and Industries’ report, Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her mother attended a bridal show in Portland where the Kleins had a booth advertising their wedding cakes. Bowman-Cryer and her mother went to a cake-tasting at the bakery in 2013.

When Aaron Klein was told there would be two brides, Rachel and Laurel, he responded that he was sorry, but the bakery did not do wedding cakes for same-sex couples because of his and his wife’s religious convictions, according to the report.

The Bowman-Cryers held a commitment ceremony in June 2013 and were married in May 2014, shortly after a federal judge struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage.

In August 2013, the brides filed a complaint with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, and the agency brought charges against the Kleins in January 2014.

Aaron Klein said his family had suffered because of the case and the glare of media attention.

The bakery’s car was vandalized and broken into twice, he said. Photographers and florists severed ties with the company, eventually forcing the Kleins to close their storefront shop in September 2013.

In a Facebook post, the Kleins vowed to contest the ruling.

“We will NOT give up this fight, and we will NOT be silenced,” they wrote. “We stand for God’s truth, God’s word and freedom for ALL Americans.”

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Gexydaf via Flickr



  1. Steve H July 6, 2015

    The law in Oregon is clear as is this ruling. If you are a person doing business in Oregon, it is never legal to discriminate, ever. Find a line of work where your beliefs will not interfere with your religion, like become a preacher.

    1. FireBaron July 6, 2015

      But then they would have an excuse to practice their prejudicial self-righteousness!

  2. yabbed July 6, 2015

    If you open your doors for business, you must serve every comer. You cannot hide your discrimination behind religion.

  3. Buzzi Butt July 6, 2015

    The Bible does not instruct its followers to shun homosexuals. That is a cultural trait. Otherwise, a proprietor would have to quiz everyone that came into his business about his personal beliefs before he could offer service. That is beyond reason. What about alcoholics, thieves, and adulterers ? Are their sins any less in the eye of God? I thought all sins were equally bad to the Supreme Being.

  4. Grannysmovin July 6, 2015

    If you are so devout in your religious beliefs Ms. Bakery and others, than why are you selling your goods to: 1. Atheists, Buddhist, Satanist, etc. 2. People who say “Jesus
    Christ” or “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” when angry or frustrated. 3. Those that do not go to their house of worship at least once a week. 4.Those that may have lied to their parents, called them names, and disobeyed them. 5. People who served their time for killing someone. 6. Those that cheated on their spouses divorced and are now looking to marrying someone else. 7. Those who stole from people via shop lifting, robbery, fraud etc. 8. People who lie. 9. People who lust after their friends’ spouse. 10. People who are jealous and envious of what their friends have and/or do. 11. Upon their release convicted petafiler. 12. Upon their release convicted rapists. Having strong religious beliefs you should be conflicted issuing them marriage licenses or providing services to them, as items 1 thru 10 break the 10 commandments which are God’s Law and you will note there is no commandment about marriage being between a man and a woman only. Items 11 and 12 offend most moral people and you would think would be offensive to people with strong religious beliefs. Who gave you the authority to pick and choose which sinners (according to your religious beliefs) are not to be serviced by you.

    1. Kurt CPI July 6, 2015

      Because, like all social stances, they are influenced by the politics of of the situation and fail to see the logic. That happens on all politically tempered fronts. Still, 135,000 for a small mom & pop does not show any tolerance on the part of the judge – who is supposed to be enforcing social tolerance. It’s a travesty. Like all social change, it will take time for the dissenters to fall into line. Decisions like this serve to widen the divide. A $5000 fine would be enough to stop them from repeating their mistake without bankrupting them.

      1. Grannysmovin July 6, 2015

        If they wish to provide a service to the public, than they need to not discriminate against anyone and than hide behind their religious beliefs. Didn’t this mom and pop bakery have a “gofundme” site set up for them raising money? Having said that, I agree the $135K is high for a first offense, however, I think 5k is too little; Perhaps $25K would be more in line.

        1. tomtype July 6, 2015

          Groucho Marx, appearing in court, and being himself, is fined $25 for contempt of court. He replies, “$25 doesn’t show my contempt for this court.” Maybe they should also have factored that sum into their statement of faith. But then the early Christians got fed to the lions, and in that case $135,000 appears cheap.

      2. daves July 6, 2015

        Haven’t the bakers received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from like minded bigots? A small fine would encourage more than discourage.

        1. Kurt CPI July 6, 2015

          Of course the Christian supporters will rally to the defense of what they see as an affront on their religious freedom (which, of course, it isn’t). But they won’t keep the dollars flowing indefinitely. At some point they’ll say enough is enough and the bakery will either comply or close. Either way it makes for bad blood, and I believe the amount of bad blood will be proportional to the perception of vengeance, which in turn will be interpreted as proportional to the dollar damage inflicted. If the goal is compliance, the big fine will yield results sooner. If the goal is social acceptance, the big fine is counter productive (IMHO).

    2. latebloomingrandma July 6, 2015

      Don’t give the business owner bigots any ideas. Maybe they’ll design a questionnaire for customers to fill out to see if they’re compatible with their religion before they sell them a product or a service.

      1. Grannysmovin July 6, 2015

        Perhaps they will hook them up to a lie detector to see if their verbal responses to their questions are lies.

  5. tomtype July 6, 2015

    There must be some logic in denying freedom to the lesbian couple in order for all Americans to have freedom? But it really escapes me.

    1. latebloomingrandma July 6, 2015

      Same here,
      . I’m scratching my head trying to figure out this circuitous logic.

    2. Buzzi Butt July 8, 2015

      Back to basics. Define freedom. Does that mean someone can do whatever he wants?

      1. tomtype July 8, 2015

        Of course not. One of the classics is your freedom to swing your fist stop at contact with my nose. Or as the doctors say, to do no harm.
        It does not particular harm for a business to do what they do. But it does do real harm to have that service denied to you because of who you are. It did not injure the hotel owner to provide a bed to a Black man or to a gay man. It does no harm to a baker to sell a cake to a gay couple, but it does diminish the celebration, the completeness of the day. It does do harm to the customer.
        And we all have something that we do feel are not the equal. If you are an evangelical, besides gay weddings, you probably don’t think civil ceremonies are as real, or maybe Hindu or Muslim ceremonies and weddings are quite as real. But we know we don’t discriminate against them. We may not feel a Mormon Church or a Jewish Synagogue or a Muslim Mosque rate the same honor as a church, but we know that legally they do. And as civilized humans, we do not go tagging the buildings of other faiths. So, we limit our own theoretical freedom to denounce those with whom we disagree, for they have legal rights. And now we are adding another group. For some people that is unacceptable. But it is exactly what makes American great and so strong.
        We do not have freedom because we limit the freedom of others, but because we affirm the freedom of others.

  6. The lucky one July 6, 2015

    I am 100% in favor of same sex marriage, equal treatment for essential services like healthcare and non-discrimination of any sort wherever tax support of any kind is afforded to the business in question. I also think it’s ridiculous for a business to turn away any reasonable paying customer. That said I believe that the damages in this case are absurd. $135,000 for distress because they couldn’t have the particular cake they wanted, c’mon that is nonsense. I also wonder why anyone would want someone that had expressed a strong dislike for them preparing their food.

    1. Jef Peace July 6, 2015

      Exactly what I’m thinking. If someone wants to open a business that serves the public, that person should be prepared to provide his/her service or product to the public without discrimination or suffer the consequences, but the amount awarded in this case for “emotional trauma” is a bit ludicrous, in my opinion. Is the Court saying Lesbians are more emotional than non-lesbians and therefore deserve larger monetary awards when someone hurts their feelings?

    2. tomtype July 6, 2015

      But as social policy we do not want people to lightly defy social policy. So especially early or especially egregious offenders get hit hard. They don’t seem to be repentant. They may object to same sex marriage, and no one is making them engage in same sex marriage or even same sex sex. Only if they have an objection to baking should they chose not to bake.
      Compared to other examples of breaking the law, even such a heavy charge is light compared to prison or restitution. This has become another fad, rather than a well considered stance.

      1. The lucky one July 6, 2015

        Early maybe but certainly not egregious, it’s a wedding cake we’re talking out. I would think that all the business that they will lose from having their bigotry outed would be sufficient. Exactly what would the restitution be for having to find an alternative baker for their wedding cake. If the baker agreed to provide the cake and then reneged that would be different.

        1. daves July 6, 2015

          If a company told a couple with Down Syndrome that they don’t serve their kind, is the only injustice suffered by the couple the inconvenience of having to find someone that will make the cake?

          1. The lucky one July 6, 2015

            Essentially yes. Publicize that businesses’ behavior and market will punish them, possibly even put them out of business. We can’t legislate. It’s been tried often and has never worked yet.

        2. tomtype July 6, 2015

          On the other hand, as you say, it is only a cake. Is the gesture really worth $135,000? If the baker is that unprofessional, they probably don’t belong in business anyway. If you are doing something, you are supposed to know that the law says. The baker was ignorant of the law, and also showed a lack of Christian love, respect and forgiveness. So while not in law, they were also punished for hypocrisy. And that too, last time I checked, is also a sin. So they can’t bake themselves a cake either.

          1. The lucky one July 6, 2015

            I’m not saying the bakers aren’t ignorant hypocrites and they are certainly lacking in the type of Christian virtues I was taught as a child. I could even accept that what they are doing is sinful but is the government now in the business of punishing sinful behavior? If so it would make more sense for the fine to go to the state, like a traffic fine. I don’t see how the offended couple deserve $135,000 dollars.

          2. tomtype July 6, 2015

            Actually a major chunk went to the lawyers, because they are so deserving.
            Ouch, my tongue is now stuck so far into my cheek I may never get it out.

    3. dpaano October 8, 2015

      You’ve got a point there, but I think it wasn’t the actual cake baking that the court was upset about….it was their decision that they didn’t want to do business with a same-sex couple.

  7. Peter July 6, 2015

    They are entitled to their beliefs…and the courts are entitled to hold them accountable for said beliefs.

    In a few years this type of discrimination will be as offensive as not baking a cake for an inter-racial couple.

    1. Looner July 7, 2015

      It is now, at least to me.

  8. 2ThinkN_Do2 July 6, 2015

    $135,000; wow, is that what it cost to have the cake made somewhere else? What a joke . . .

    1. heidi jo bean July 6, 2015

      You miss the point.
      Discrimination is illegal, and those who own a business that is open to the public, must serve the public. They can say, “no shoes, no shirt, no service,” but they can’t say, “no service to blacks, Jews, or gays.”
      Break the law, you pay the consequences.

      1. 2ThinkN_Do2 July 6, 2015

        What if they cannot afford shoes, or a shirt, that’s discrimination . . . . . .

        1. heidi jo bean July 7, 2015

          It’s a sanitary/health issue to have no shoes or no shirt inside a food/drink establishment.

          1. 2ThinkN_Do2 July 8, 2015

            It’s probably less sanitary to have people open their mouth and talk, or breath. Especially if they emit any microscopic droplets of bio-hazard while doing so, and then their are their hands, touching stuff, who knows where they’ve been . . . .

        2. Looner July 7, 2015

          If they can’t afford shoes or a shirt, then buying a cake should not be on their list of first things to buy…. Plus the whole health code violation thing. Frankly I think shoes would be #1, followed closely by the shirt.

          1. 2ThinkN_Do2 July 8, 2015

            Face coverage of breathing portals should be #1 covered area . . .

        3. Buzzi Butt July 8, 2015

          Not really. We are a republic, meaning that we agree to follow a set of rules, as set down in the Constitution. But as a democracy, we can change those rules. The issue is to not let short-term fads override the long term benefits of stability.

    2. JPHALL July 6, 2015

      Not really. When ever you involve lawyers, the price goes up!

  9. 2ThinkN_Do2 July 6, 2015

    You missed my point . . . . where is the justification for the fine?

  10. charleo1 July 6, 2015

    The issue here of whether a person offering services has the Right to refuse them on the basis of their stated religious beliefs has much broader implications than the odd florist, or baker, who claims to detests the lifestyle of a prospective customer’s sexual orientation so much as to refuse to do business with them. Especially since the choice to refuse service, is both a personal one, and may be as selective as the business owner in question chooses. The possibilities for great societal harm to find in favor of the bakery owners in this case, seem endless. As such a prerogative would surely open the door wide to the potential for all manner of indiscriminate, discrimination. Not necessarily based on just the customer’s admitted sexual preference, But could also logically be extended to the customer’s dress or accent. Denoting at least in in the business owner’s mind, which would be the paramount determining factor here. A particular religion, or culture he/she may claim as being averse to his, “strongly held beliefs.” Raising the next question. Is discrimination that may be based on unfair bigotry, or simply as superficial as the cut of one’s jib, a message on a t-shirt, or a casual remark revealing the political leanings of the person in the shop, become then legal grounds for refusal of services And does that make discrimination for those reasons, any less abhorrent, or corrosive to societal norms, than when it’s done in the name of religious freedom?

    1. Buzzi Butt July 8, 2015

      An individual may practice his/her beliefs freely until said practice interferes with another person’s right to practice his/her beliefs. It matters not if the root of the belief-religious, cultural, whatever. Once you have more than one person in a group, all involved to cooperate for a peaceful, harmonious relationship to develop. Make that a mix of a few million people and the opportunity for conflict is infinite. USA is a republic. By definition, its citizens agree to follow a set of rules, the Constitution, that apply to all, rules that are somewhat inviolate. You might want to study Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (and its amendments) which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of
      dwellings. Your local real estate agent or banker cannot refuse service because of his personal beliefs. This concept needs to apply to the baker, photographer, car salesman. What the real crime is our legal and media systems favoring special interest groups at the expense of the public good. SCOTUS reaffirmed that marriage is a “fundamental right.”. They were flat wrong to re-define what marriage is. That authority is not granted to SCOTUS in the the Constitution. Specific issues not addressed in the Constitution are left for the states to handle. Unfortunately, decades of questionable rulings have eroded the power supposedly vested to the states, while strengthening the federal government. This was never the intent of those that authored the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

      1. charleo1 July 8, 2015

        Agree with the first part of your comment. Disagree with the latter. What the Supreme Court did was affirm the Right of two consenting adults, irrespective of gender, to enter into a mutually agreed upon universally recognized, legally binding contract.One that holds some very specific advantages under the law for it’s participants. And holds these similar advantages in every State. The term, “marriage,” is not being redefined in a legal sense. As marriage is the vernacular word used to describe such a contract, as is recognized by the government, acting here as the regulating, and record keeping agency. Differing in both statute, and purview from say the term, “Holy Matrimony.” Which connotes the idea of being in sympathy with, or in compliance with a religious tenet. Which clearly falls outside the bounds of a Constitutionally limited Government to either bless, or condemn. The Church’s authority to allow, or selectively forbid such unions within their teachings remains protected. As we’re seeing, some well established Churches, like the Episcopalians have decided to accommodate same sex couples. While others like the Catholics have not. Both safely within their Religious Rights, protected under the 1st Amendment, as before the ruling. So, in a strictly legal sense, from the perspective of a religiously neutral State, as the Constitution requires. SCOTUS did not re-define the legal instrument of marriage, but forbid it’s selectivity in the States, by broadening it’s applicability in compliance with the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

      2. Carolyn1520 July 8, 2015

        It was never the intent of our Founders to have the religious right dictate ANYTHING.

        1. Buzzi Butt July 8, 2015

          Beliefs are not limited to religious doctrine or political ideology. Differences among citizens is permitted by the Constitution, whether or not some of us condone those differences. I don’t like liberals, you don’t like Catholics. That is quite acceptable.

          1. Carolyn1520 July 8, 2015

            I don’t understand the point you are trying to make in response to my comment. Of course everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. I don’t think that has ever been in question. I don’t dislike anyone based on their religious beliefs. What I do not like is any attempt to impose those beliefs on the masses.

          2. tomtype July 8, 2015

            The secret of Freedom of Religion is if we can’t have our own faith the
            only one, the next best option is to have none. And that goes for every
            group. So we all enjoy having our own beliefs on all subjects being

          3. Buzzi Butt July 8, 2015

            I was speaking in a broader sense. Religious “rights” do not have precedence over some other groups “rights”. Our founding fathers never intended to give religion a preferred status in the eyes of the law. Too many religious groups think that they are entitled to special protection by the government. They think they are above the law when it comes to discriminating against other people how believe and live differently.

  11. Looner July 7, 2015

    That bakery clearly misunderstood. The couple wanted the bakery to bake them a stupid cake, not have sex with them. Silly bakers.

  12. Carolyn1520 July 7, 2015

    I think all businesses nationwide who aren’t backward, should advertise their willingness to provide services or goods to all without exception. I don’t want to patronize the businesses of bigots, racists or members of the American Taliban and there should be something similar to Angie’s List so we also have a choice in the matter.
    How would those businesses feel about that?

    1. Buzzi Butt July 8, 2015

      By being open to the public, a business is affirming his willingness to serve the public. But a business should not be required to provide any service a customer wants. A Kosher deli cannot be forced to serve non-kosher food. A Ford dealership cannot be forced to sell Dodge, or all models of Fords for that matter.

      1. Carolyn1520 July 8, 2015

        Of course.
        The issue is businesses open to the public who practice discrimination against select individuals by citing it’s against, in this case, their religious beliefs.
        As a customer it’s against my moral code to patronize businesses who
        discriminate against any citizen. I’m happy when they make their bigotry known. I wish they all would. While many are complying with the law and have hate in their hearts, I’d still prefer not to patronize them. The so called religious right doesn’t have a claim on God or patriotism but they like to think they do. Anyone who doesn’t agree with them is unpatriotic and or godless. It’s gotten old. I’m ready to turn the tables and say they don’t meet my moral standards.

        1. dpaano October 8, 2015

          The so-called “evangelical Christians” are an embarrassment to those of us who are ACTUAL Christians. They need to read the bible again because if they asked themselves WWJD, they might be surprised with the answer!

      2. dpaano October 8, 2015

        This is apples and oranges and makes no sense in the context of the article above.

  13. DAK27 July 8, 2015

    I’ve no problem with a business refusing service based on religion as long as it is applied equally. No gays? Fine, then no adulterers, no divorced people, no people who mix types of fabric, oh the list is endless. If you are using the Bible to back up your “religious beliefs” then you shouldn’t be allowed to pick and choose which parts you can use. It is either 100% or 0% IMO.

    1. 2ThinkN_Do2 July 8, 2015

      What if you are only using the natural order of human existence?

      1. DAK27 July 8, 2015

        I don’t understand your question, sorry. However, the “natural order of human existence” has nothing to do with using pieces and parts of the Bible. Either use 100% or 0% as picking and choosing seems to me to be discrimination called by a different name: Religious Freedom.

      2. dpaano October 8, 2015

        Does that mean they must serve our primitive ancestors, the apes?

  14. dpaano October 8, 2015

    Again, until God does business with this bakery, they have to obey the laws of the land. When you go into business, it’s usually to make a profit. If you “pick and choose” who you want to serve, maybe you should rethink going into a business at all. Just my opinion….


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