Sweet Cakes By Melissa, the Oregon bakery that refused to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding — citing religious reasons — may have to pay the couple $135,000 in damages for their emotional suffering.
An administrative law judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries proposed the order, which was released on Friday, April 24, reports Oregon Live. The $135,000 will be split between the now-married lesbian couple. The judge proposed that the bakery owners give Rachel Bowman-Cryer $75,000 and her wife, Laurel Bowman-Cryer, $60,000.
The amounts are only a recommendation made by Judge Alan McCullough, and not final. Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian has the final authority to either accept the proposed payments, or alter them to a higher or lower amount.
The complaint against Sweet Cakes By Melissa began in January 2013, when Aaron Klein, Melissa Klein’s husband, turned away Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her mother at a cake-tasting appointment they had set up.
Melissa was not present at the time.
In August 2013, a complaint was made to the Bureau of Labor and Industries by the Bowman-Cryers. An investigation was opened and in January 2014, charges were brought against the Kleins for unlawfully discriminating against the couple because of their sexual orientation.
In January 2015, McCullough ruled that Sweet Cakes By Melissa did, in fact, discriminate against the Bowman-Cryers by refusing to make them a wedding cake.
"The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the complainants," the Bureau of Labor and Industries said in a statement on Friday, reports KGW. "Under Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion. Our agency is committed to fair and thorough enforcement of Oregon civil rights laws, including the Equality Act of 2007."
The bakery owners argued that due to their religious beliefs, they refused service to the lesbian couple.
OpposingViews reported last year that while Sweet Cakes By Melissa, now an online business, was not serving the LGBT community, they were baking cakes for ex-homosexuals.
A picture posted to their Facebook page was a cake made for the Restored Hope Network, an organization for former gay people, led by a self-identified “ex-lesbian.” The organization claims they can change gay people to heterosexuals with therapy.
The caption on the photo read: “Cakes for Restored Hope Network. What a wonderful ministry!”
Following the judges’ decision, Melissa Klein posted the following to her Facebook page, with a link to a GoFundMe account:
“We just found out that the judge has made his decision, he is ordering that we pay $135,000 in emotional damages. This money will not come from the business, but instead would have to be paid from money that should be going to pay for food and housing for us and our 5 children. Brad Avakian has not had his final word on it and it may be increased. This amount will financially ruin us. Our government was put in place to protect the people not to punish people because of their faith. We have had many people ask to help, someone kindly set up a go fund me for us. Thank you to all who are willing to fight for religious freedom. God bless http://www.gofundme.com/su4cxqe6[.]”
However, the GoFundMe account was promptly taken down shortly after.
The Kleins and Bowman-Cryers will be given a review of the proposal, and will have the option to file exceptions before Avakian issues a final order.
The Bowman-Cryers' attorney said his clients have no comment at this time regarding the proposed amount of damages to be awarded to them.