A cake shop in Gresham, Oregon called Sweet Cakes by Melissa made national news headlines in January 2013 after refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, prompting the lesbian couple to file a complaint to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries and reference their civil rights under the Oregon Equality Act.
Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of the cake shop, said that they had refused to cater for the wedding because of their Christian faith, referencing their rights to free religious exercise under the U.S. Constitution. The Kleins had to close down their shop soon after the incident, but continued their business from home.
In April 2015, state officials penalized the business. Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian issued a final order on July 2, ordering the Kleins to pay $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer for the supposed emotional and mental suffering the lesbian couple had experienced after being turned away from the bake shop two years earlier. Avakian claimed that the Kleins had violated the lesbians' civil rights by discriminating against their sexual preferences.
The Kleins claim that they are still recovering financially from the lawsuit and shouldn’t have to provide services that violate their religious beliefs. Supporters helped set up crowd-funding sites to help them with their expenses.
“From all accounts, as emotional as it got, it would be like a kid told that no they can’t go outside and play."
Avakian repeatedly rejected the Kleins' requests, citing the amounts raised from the crowd-funding sites.
"It's difficult to understand the Kleins' unwillingness to pay the debt when they have, very publicly, raised nearly a half million dollars," labor bureau spokesman Charlie Burr said in an email. "They are entitled to a full and fair review of the case, but do not have the right to disregard a legally binding order."
Aaron Klein told The Daily Wire that he and his wife “lost a huge amount of revenue” over the legal case. He said that the court’s ruling was unfair, as the judge who made the final decisions got his paycheck from Avakian.
“From all accounts, as emotional as it got, it would be like a kid told that no they can’t go outside and play,” Klein said regarding the lesbian couple’s emotional damages for which he was asked to pay. “She said that I called her an abomination and I never once told her that.”
The Kleins have stated that they will continue to contest the Bureau’s decision.