The former owners of an Oregon bakery have been ordered to pay $135,000 (about Ksh13 milion) to a lesbian couple who were refused a wedding cake, in the latest front in the battle between religious liberty and individual rights.
Oregon Labour Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered Aaron and Melissa Klein, who owned the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, 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 last 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 Labour 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.
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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 Labour 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.” (Los Angeles Times)
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