Wedding cake showdown: Bakery owners refuse to pay damages to lesbian couple

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Owners of a Portland, Ore., bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple are now fighting court-ordered damages. Photo via Shutterstock

Owners of a Portland, Ore., bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple are now fighting court-ordered damages. Photo via Shutterstock

PORTLAND, Ore.(Reuters) – The owners of a Portland-area bakery who refused on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple are fighting a court order to pay the pair $135,000 in damages, Oregon officials said on Wednesday.

When Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer were planning their nuptials in 2013, Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery, refused to bake the cake, citing their religious beliefs.

The Kleins were featured guests at the conservative Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., last week alongside Kim Davis, a Kentucky clerk who was jailed after her refusal to issue the licenses and who met with Pope Francis during his U.S. visit.


READ: Pope Francis met Kentucky clerk Kim Davis: ‘Stay strong!’


Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries found the owners had violated anti-discrimination laws because their shop is not a registered religious institution, and ordered them to pay the couple $135,000 in damages.

The Kleins appealed the ruling and have refused to pay, citing financial hardships, Bureau spokesman Charlie Burr said, adding that the agency is exploring options for collecting the money.

The agency has given the Kleins the option of obtaining a bond or a line of credit, and has also agreed to hold funds in escrow until the appeals are settled, Burr said.

Burr also said they have raised nearly $500,000 through a donation campaign.

“They are entitled to a full and fair review of the case, but do not have the right to disregard a legally binding order,” Burr said.

An attorney representing the Kleins, Herb Grey, said the couple has raised far less than $500,000, but declined to give an exact number. He also said they should not be obligated to pay the damages because the case is not settled.


READ: I’m no fan of gay marriage, but bake the cake and arrange the flowers (COMMENTARY)


“They continue to stand on their well-established constitutional rights to live and work based on their values and beliefs,” Grey said. “Religion is a protected class just like sexual orientation is.”

Grey said he expects the appeal to be heard in the spring.

The gay couple married in 2014 after a federal judge struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The bakery case is one of many disputes nation-wide since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

 

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  • Larry

    So now religious convictions are supposed to be a substitute for poor lawyering skills.

    Being a Christian means never having to face the consequences of one’s own actions. 🙂

  • Billysees

    ” Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries found the owners had violated anti-discrimination laws…and ordered them to pay the couple $135,000 in damages. ”

    That sounds like an awfully large and unrealistic amount for a bakery, but for a corporation or large business would sound right.

  • Garson Abuita

    In all fairness to the defendants, with whom I vociferously disagree, they’re not refusing to pay the damages as ordered by the tribunal. They’re appealing the decision, presumably as far as they can take it. This isn’t civil disobedience, it’s litigation.

  • Larry Ball

    I voted for legal same sex marriage in WA. I regret that now. Not because of the people who I believe need access to the same rights, but because of the nasty evil activists types who are not interested in creating a marriage based on love. But want to destroy the lives of people different than them. Not one of these vendors is blocking someone from getting married. Most seem happy to serve Gay customers. They just don’t want to be part of an event they feel goes against their religion. This is one of those places where a free country with sane civlized people would just steer clear of each other. Should George Takei have to speak at a conventions sponsored by a “Traditional Marriage Group” speaking is his business. If a Baker can’t choose what events they do custom work for.. then every Gay person should be forced to perform art, design, planning etc for ant-gay groups. That is insane right? So is starting your life of love by destroying another person. It just validates…

  • SJH

    $135,000 in damages for not baking a cake. In what world is that reasonable?

  • Halou

    A large part of the fine came from the Kleins decision to post the customers contact details on Facebook for their mob of angry shouty supporters to take advantage of. Various offensive letters and phone calls were received by the couple over an extended period of time.

  • mayngram

    Did the Kleins “love their enemy”, “carry the cloak an extra mile”, “do unto others”, “take the sliver out of their own eye”, etc.? If they can prove they’ve met those tests, perhaps they have a case to stand on. If not, they are simply hypocrites, hiding behind a false set of values.

  • Larry

    It’s reasonable as damages for publishing the customers’ name and contact info online in order to subject them to harassment. See Halou’s comment.

  • Larry

    First of all given your parroting of arguments used by the anti gay crowd for excusing discrimination, I doubt the veracity of your first sentence. A business open to the public has a duty to serve the entire public. Baking a cake is not performance art. The same cake gets baked for a straight wedding as it is for a gay wedding. Since the state’s anti discrimination law includes orientation, denying them goods and service is akin to denying any other protected group. No different from refusing to serve a black or Hindu couple.

    This kind of discrimination has no excuse. There us,no such thing as a well intended act of discrimination. It is a deliberate and malicious axt done to attack the customers. People who do so deserve sanction for their actions.

    This one being exacerbated by the bakers subjecting the customer to harassment after the fact. I have no sympathy for the bakers or anyone looking for excuses to bring back Jim Crow type behavior.

  • Ben in oakland

    So the handful of cake martyrs outweighs the rights of hundreds of thousands people to be free of religious discrimination.

    Even if what you said were true, and it’s not, you are also saying that you will judge a whole, large group of people and deny them their equality before the law and their participation in society, based upon the actions of a very, very small minority.

    It’s the very definition of a bigot.

    Somehow, I suspect you didn’t support gay marriage inWashington.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    I’m almost certain that there’s not enough “evil activist types” around to get involved in such things. In just about every news report I’ve seen of these cases, the plaintiffs tend to regular, ordinary people from the area not really involved in politics. Most just seem to have been hurt over exclusion by mean-spirited proprietors. This whole concept of “evil activist types” almost recalls J. Edgar Hoover looking for commonists under every bed. They ain’t there, friend.

    It would seem the proper Christian witness would be make a good cake and serve the people one regards as lesser than themselves to the best of their ability. To be able to say “we don’t do cakes for gay weddings” is absolutely no different from saying we do not serve African-Americans because of their race.

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  • Ted

    These bakers are Bible-cultists, not Christians. They worship a book, not God. They posted this couple’s contact info online specifically to induce their harassment by other bigoted Bible-cultists. This behavior has nothing to do with the lessons Jesus taught.

  • Shawnie5

    Actually none of the fine came from the publication of said details, although such damages were requested:

    “The Commissioner concludes that complainants’ emotional harm related to the denial of service continued throughout the period of media attention and that the facts related solely to emotional harm resulting from media attention do not adequately support an award of damages. No further analysis regarding the media attention as a causative factor is, therefore, necessary.”

    http://www.oregon.gov/boli/SiteAssets/pages/press/Sweet%20Cakes%20FO.pdf

    That whole decision is worth a read. It shows exactly what kind of people the complainants are.

  • Shawnie5

    “To be able to say “we don’t do cakes for gay weddings” is absolutely no different from saying we do not serve African-Americans because of their race.”

    Except that discrimination on the basis of race and national origin was directly addressed by amendment–which is why no other kind of “discrimination” has ever been held to be its equal.

  • Shawnie5

    We unfortunately live in a world where it is deemed reasonable to demand a damage award for “loss of appetite” accompanied by a simultaneous “weight gain” for not getting a cake. Go figure.

  • Shawnie5

    The Kleins did the most loving thing possible in not participating in sin. One of the compllainants herself testified that what happened caused her to doubt the rightness of her choices. That is one of the things Christian obedience is SUPPOSED to accomplish.

  • Larry

    The kind of people the plaintiffs are, those who expected to be treated like customers. I guess if you are going to support discrimination, character assassination of those experiencing it will be your go-to tactic.

    The kind of people the defendants are, malicious hateful types who wanted to discriminate. People who had no reason to expect their behavior to be excused or ignored under the state laws.

  • Richard Rush

    Shawnie5, I noticed that you “forgot’ to mention that religion is one of the protected categories in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    The laws in some states have added sexual orientation as a protected category, in which case they are every bit as binding as the other categories. I assume you are campaigning to have that category removed, as well as making sure that sexual orientation is never added at the Federal level.

    So, In order to avoid being properly labeled a hypocrite, I assume you are also campaigning to have the religion category removed from the CRA of 1964.

  • Larry

    Not an excuse for discrimination. The state’s laws listed orientation in the same lines as race and religion. The act is considered the same regardless of the victim of it. Bigotry as an excuse to deny goods and service in open commerce. All it means is there is no federal action here.

  • Larry

    I think the word you were looking to describe the complainants was “uppity”. 🙂

  • Much like Scott Lively believed that the best way to show Christian love to gays was to have them imprisoned and executed.
    http://religionnews.com/2015/10/01/lgbt-scott-lively-human-rights-persecution-uganda-russia-kim-davis/

  • ArmedForces

    Ted, Good point. There indeed is a distinction. Well stated.

  • Jon Trouten

    This wasn’t the result of legalized marriage.

    This is the result of Oregon having a public accommodation law that includes sexual orientation among the many traits that it’s not allowed to discriminate against.

    It just happens that it involves a cake vendor and a wedding.

  • Larry

    Christians are undermining themselves by pretending their religious beliefs are a catch-all excuse to act badly to others. At this point I have absolutely no compelling reason to respect many people who identify themselves as Christian.

    Trifles to you amount to insults and attacks to others. Discrimination is about using petty indignities to maintain a social dominance. But its good to know that you consider the feelings and rights of people besides yourself so insignificant.

    “We can still live together peacefully, recognising differences.”

    Not if you insist your religious beliefs are more important than treating people with a modicum of decency and civility. You laboring under the misapprehension that your beliefs entitle you to act in malicious and harmful ways to the public. Nobody has to tolerate that. Nobody has to respect that.

  • Shawnie5

    Richard, the Civil Rights Act was not necessary to protect free exercise of religion. This was guaranteed by the First Amendment long before anyone ever heard of “discrimination.”

    And states adding laws supposedly protecting sexual orientation is irrelevant to the fact that it does not weigh the same under the Constitution as racial discrimination. Even gender does not. Apples and oranges.

  • Shawnie5

    Kindly refrain from trying to tell me what I’m thinking, Lare. I am not “looking” for any words at all–I know exactly what words I mean. Pretty much what the Commissioner concluded: emotional, bitter, angry, overly dramatic and prone to exaggeration and not credible except where directly corroborated. To which I would, more forthrightly, add self-absorbed and extremely flaky.

  • Shawnie5

    I’ve seen no indication that the Kleins wanted to imprison or execute anybody. In fact they didn’t wish to “do” anything to anyone at all.

    You resemble the Commissioner’s description of the complainants. No wonder you endorse such despicable behavior.

  • larry

    Apples and oranges. Free exercise of religion and being discriminated for being in a religious minority are two different things. Hence religion is also included in anti discrimination legislation. Even though you think it was somehow unnecessary.

    Any more special pleading why discrimination you support is acceptable somehow and other forms are not?

  • larry

    Be less transparent in your loathing of people who dare challenge your perceived God given right to discriminate.

  • larry

    Oh come on, Lively said the same thing. His desire to imprison and kill gays was all part of his Christian love in preventing them from making “spiritually damaging choices” 🙂

    Same nonsense rhetoric. Christian love which is indistinguishable from malice and hatred. Nobody needs what passes for Christian love that you described.

  • Shawnie5

    Still haven’t read the opinion, have you?

  • Larry’s Other Face

    The fact that you can equate execution with refusal to participate in a wedding shows how much you are willing to distort facts and lie to support your position.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    Actually, no. Gender discrimination and age discrimination are illegal. Discrimination against the differently-abled is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act legislated by former Senator Bob Dole, himself a disabled man. Discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited in many states and local jurisdictions.

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  • virginia

    You open a business, a business is a business not an religious body nor an individual protected by Constitution to have religious freedom.

    I have yet to see a bakery sing a hymn or pray or eat a communion wafer.

  • Larry

    Nice try Shawnie, but I never used the term “refusal to participate in a wedding” to describe discrimination in business. That is your term.
    0
    Quoting me only works as a shaming tactic if you use words I actually said. As usual, you are veracity-impaired.

    “It’s putting forward a truth that will allow them not to participate in something that could hurt them,””
    Funny, both you and Scott Lively said the same thing. 🙂

  • Shawnie5

    I didn’t say those things were not illegal. I said that none of the various types of discrimination has ever been held by the SCOTUS to be EQUAL to discrimination based on race/national origin due to the very particular and egregious nature of it and the difficulty in dealing with it which is unique in our nation’s history.

  • Shawnie5

    Nice try, but I have no interest in promoting laws that would execute or imprison any gays. I don’t support any more restrictions on personal behavior than what is absolutely necessary to maintain public safety and order.

    I’m not even claiming that the Kleins were motivated by love for the complainants. What motivates Christian obedience is primarily love for God. But obeying God out of love for Him is never, in effect, unloving to one’s neighbor, for there is no love in the commission of sin or the approval of it. Love seeks the good of the other, not their destruction.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    Hyperbole much?

  • Larry

    Yet you use the same phrases. Almost to a word. You want to claim treating people badly is all part of Christian love. The difference being degree, not a denial any measure of malice or self righteous arrogance expressed in such phrases.

    “I don’t support any more restrictions on personal behavior than what is absolutely necessary to maintain public safety and order.”

    Except restrictions on gay people from engaging in open commerce. You support segregation of businesses by “Christian” and “affirming”.

    “What motivates Christian obedience is primarily love for God.”

    You can tell yourself that. But actions tell a different story. By all appearances it appears to be a self-serving use of religion to enable obnoxious and malicious behavior. If you had such objections to Scott Lively’s rhetoric, you would be calling it out, not adopting it. You are never at a loss for words on other subjects. Yet so silent there. Oh well.

  • Larry

    Equal in what respect? That one is considered wrong and the other is somehow acceptable? Nope.

    Comparing the differences between how our national laws perceive one form of discrimination and other forms does not negate the fact that discrimination is considered a wrong against those discriminated against. Especially when laws on the books prohibit it.

    You are just annoyed that parallels between anti-gay behavior and racists is so direct, even down to similar rhetoric and arguments. Tough luck. Discriminatory behavior and arguments used in support of it don’t change much depending on the victim. It still amounts to malicious intentional behavior done to demean and attack those on the receiving end.

  • Mary

    Obviously he has read it. It’s not clear that you have.

  • Shawnie5

    Equal in the degree of scrutiny they receive, of course, and their importance when balanced with other competing interests. The core of the last century’s worth of equal protection jurisprudence which the SCOTUS has side-stepped, intentionally, throughout the entire SSM drama.

  • Shawnie5

    Nonsense. If he had read it he would not have claimed that damages were awarded for media attention resulting from publication of names and addresses, which the opinion directly denies.

    I can never get over how people will froth endlessly about matters they know nothing about and have no intention of investigating — and evidently experience no embarrassment about it whatsoever.

  • Shawnie5

    “You want to claim treating people badly is all part of Christian love.” It is not treating people badly to refuse to participate in their sin. Actually it is treating them badly to participate, because it encourages sin which ultimately leads to destruction.

    “Except restrictions on gay people from engaging in open commerce. You support segregation of businesses by “Christian” and “affirming”.” This is not a matter of segregation — it is not person-based but event-based. And no, I would not support legal “restrictions” requiring gays to use certain businesses and not others. I support freedom of the individual business owner to not engage in specific activities that are morally objectionable to them.

    “If you had such objections to Scott Lively’s rhetoric, you would be calling it out, not adopting it.” Well, like you and Ben pointed out wrt Max, I don’t read or listen to Scott Lively. When he shows up around here, I’ll take it up with him. 😀

  • Larry’s Other Face

    Oh, and before I forget…

    The fact that you can equate execution with discrimination shows how much you are willing to distort facts and lie to support your position.

    Even humoring you by using your choice of words, it doesn’t sound much better for you.

  • Shawnie5

    Nope. Just material taken from the official record.

  • The Great God Pan

    “I voted for legal same sex marriage in WA. I regret that now.”

    Concern troll is concerned? Imagine that.

  • Mary

    Nonsense yourself ShawnieS. The damage award is complex and that was considered. And speaking of froth, you sound like a Santorum supporter, so back at you there too.

  • Mary

    Nope, mostly hyperbole.

  • Mary

    Shawnie, wait until you have a case before you try to make one. You are embarrassing yourself.

  • Mary

    Now you’re just backpedaling, ShawnieS.

  • Shawnie5

    The relevant portion of the opinion was quoted above. Larry’s claim was false and uninformed. And several news sites have also had to publish retractions of that same falsehood. The Raw Story, for example:

    “An earlier version of this article contained a significant error that resulted from failure to distinguish the difference between the agency’s recommendation and the commissioner’s final ruling. The bakers were not, as previously reported, punished for threats by others against the couple, as the agency had recommended. They were ordered by the commissioner to pay damages to the couple for emotional harm caused by their unlawful discrimination. We regret the error…”

  • Shawnie5

    Buzz off, Bob. You obviously have nothing to contribute, as usual.

  • Don

    Shawnie, you are trying unsuccessfully to split hairs. The best news here is that the bakery bigots got solidly THUMPED for their dirty deed, and so should you for your windbag attempts to obfuscate the fact that they got nailed for it.

  • Shawnie5

    Splitting hairs? No, I am exposing an often-repeated lie about the basis of the damage award which was repeated twice more on this thread. The reason why your ilk have been so stubborn about repeating this lie is the desire to lend some appearance of legitimacy to a patently outrageous and damage award based upon patently trumped-up, exaggerated and dishonest claims which gives pause even to many on your side.

  • Larry

    “The fact that you can equate execution with discrimination shows how much you are willing to distort facts and lie to support your position.

    Even humoring you by using your choice of words, it doesn’t sound much better for you.’;

    Except you are changing the words used making it a completely false quote and omitting original context. That makes the second time you have tried that badly. Fundies have a habit distorting facts and quotemining. Thank you for demonstrating that so clearly. 🙂

  • Tacey12

    Liberty, liberty, liberty! In a free America, you are not obligated to serve any customer. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. That is liberty.

    Of course, the ruling has nothing to do with political correctness. The bakery owners are Christians. The suit had nothing to do with their faith just as Houston’s gay mayor’s attack on five Christian churches had nothing to do with Christianity. No. There is no war on Christianity by left wing extremists. There is no way they could be so hateful. Right???

  • Shawnie5

    LOL! Larry, make all the excuses you want, but your hypocrisy is quite evident to all. And you have shot off your mouth so often that there is a veritable wealth of comedic material with which to showcase it. I’ve rarely ever encountered an evangelical atheist who wasn’t a flaming hypocrite — otherwise they would be out enjoying life, or perhaps working (gasp) instead of trying to demonstrate how little religion matters to them by haunting religion news boards day and night.

  • Don

    no Shawnie. You are obviously splitting hairs, and should seek help for your obsession. The courts have decided this clear case against business owners that did wrong (and in a damaging, bigoted way), and now hairsplitting and whining are pretty what your own obsessed “ilk” are doing.

    Sputter more if you like, but there it is. Take a big dose of reality, chill out, and let it go.

  • Don

    Shawnie, I think you’re really obsessed and maybe needing professional help. Seriously, let it go. Case is closed.