A family of seven behind the bakery Sweetcakes in Oregon was sued for $135,000 by a same sex couple after the couple was politely declined a wedding cake due to the baker's Christian faith. I say the family was sued and not just Aaron and Melissa Klein of Sweetcakes because the family is going to go broke to pay the $135k to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer who equated the polite decline of a wedding cake to “mental rape.” Now for the update:
Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian finalized a preliminary ruling today ordering Aaron and Melissa Klein, the bakers who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the couple they denied service.
“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage,” Avakian wrote. “It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.”
In the ruling, Avakian placed an effective gag order on the Kleins, ordering them to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.
“This effectively strips us of all our first amendment rights,” the Kleins, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which has since closed, wrote on their Facebook page. “According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech.”
The cease and desist came about after Aaron and Melissa Klein participated in an interview with Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins. During the interview, Aaron said among other things, “This fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong.”
Lawyers for plaintiffs, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, argued that in making this statement, the Kleins violated an Oregon law banning people from acting on behalf of a place of public accommodation (in this case, the place would be the Kleins’ former bakery) to communicate anything to the effect that the place of public accommodation would discriminate.
But today, Avakian, who was in charge of making the final ruling in the case—and is also an elected politician—reversed that decision.
“The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries hereby orders [Aaron and Melissa Klein] to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published … any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations … will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation,” Avakian wrote.
The Bowman-Cryers weren't content with having driven the small, family-owned business out of business; they wanted the judge to gag the Klein's from telling people what happened to them—and the Oregon Labor Commissioner, Brad Avakian, consented, throwing out a judge's dismissal to do so. In addition to having their free artistic expression and free practice of faith compromised, their First Amendment has been squelched, too.
The family have lost the bakery they built, the building they rehabbed and outfitted to house the bakery, are struggling financially now raising their five children to pay Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer for hurt feelings over a cake (they were offered countless free cakes after they publicized the story, including a cake from “Ace of Cake's” Duff Goldman. It should be noted that same sex marriage wasn't even legal in the state when the request was made.
(Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer.)
“LBC [Laurel Bowman-Cryer] was a very bitter and angry witness who had a strong tendency to exaggerate and over-dramatize events,” the judge wrote. “On cross examination, she argued repeatedly with Respondents' counsel and had to be counseled ... to answer the questions asked of her instead of editorializing about the cake refusal and how it affected her. Her testimony was inconsistent in several respects with more credible evidence.”
The judge awarded Laurel Bowman-Cryer a lesser amount because she wasn't present when Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her mother were turned away at the bakery and because he found her testimony “about the extent and severity of her emotional suffering to be exaggerated in some respects.”