Bakery Owners Pay $135K Fine After Refusing Wedding Cake For Lesbian Couple

| by Nik Bonopartis
Melissa and Aaron Klein.Melissa and Aaron Klein.

Melissa and Aaron Klein's refusal to bake a cake for a lesbian couple in 2013 was a costly decision.

The owners of the Oregon bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, made national headlines after getting into a legal battle over their refusal to bake a cake for would-be customers Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple.

After an Oregon labor commissioner ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 in damages to the Bowman-Cryers in July, Aaron said he would stand by his religious convictions and not hand over the money.

But on Dec. 28, Aaron went to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries' Portland office and dropped off a check for $136,927.07, an amount that includes interest, Willamette Week reports. While the Kleins have decided to comply with the state's order, they have an ongoing case to fight the decision in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

The saga dates back to January 2013, when Aaron declined to bake a $250 raspberry cake for the Bowman-Cryers, who were planning a civil commitment ceremony. The resulting legal and moral drama spurred gay rights groups to protest outside of the bakery, which was eventually closed down; meanwhile, conservative groups raised more than $517,000 for the Kleins via crowdfunding websites.

Same-sex marriages were legalized in Oregon in May 2014.

The case hinged on Oregon's discrimination laws, which protect gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination. The laws also protect LGBT individuals' rights as customers, regardless of whether a business is private. A labor commissioner ruled that, despite Aaron's religious beliefs, as a business owner, he could not discriminate against the Bowman-Cryers without violating the law.

Earlier in December, before the Kleins and their attorneys decided to pay the fine in full, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries to confiscate money from the Kleins' bank accounts -- more than $7,000, according to Fox News.

Melissa told Fox the commission took money from three bank accounts, including an account labeled "God's Money" which the couple used to hold money for tithing.

Melissa "panicked" after realizing the couple's accounts had been cleared out, and in consultation with their attorneys, Aaron and Melissa decided to pay the fine, plus interest. The $136,927.07 was not in the couple's bank accounts, but was donated by friends and family.

On Dec. 28, a few hours after Aaron handed the check to the state's labor bureau, the couple's attorneys issued a statement, reported by Wilamette Week, vowing to continue fighting the decision:

“Aaron and Melissa Klein are devoted to honoring God in every aspect of their lives, including how they conduct themselves in this litigation. Oregon law requires that as they appeal the Oregon government’s decision denying them their First Amendment rights, they must either pay the amount imposed by the Oregon government, or obtain a bond for the amount of the judgment. The least expensive option to stay in compliance with the law was to pay the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries funds that will be kept in a separate account until they prevail in their court appeal.”

Sources: Willamette Week (2), Fox NewsAssociated Press via ABC News / Photo credit: Facebook via Metro Weekly