State Says Bakers Should Pay $135,000 for Refusing to Bake Cake for Same-Sex Wedding
Kelsey Harkness /
An Oregon administrative law judge recommended today that the bakers who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding should be fined $135,000.
“[T]he forum concludes that $75,000 and $60,000, are appropriate awards to compensate [the same-sex couple] for the emotional suffering they experienced,” wrote Alan McCullough, administrative law judge for Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries in his proposed order.
Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa located in Gresham, Ore., say the fine is enough to potentially bankrupt their family of seven.
The dispute began in January 2013, when Aaron denied Rachel Cryer a wedding cake after learning there would be two brides in her wedding.
Aaron and his wife Melissa are both Christians and believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
Rachel and her partner Laurel Bowman-Cryer, who are now married, filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries under the state’s public accommodation law, which bans discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries pursued charges against the Kleins on behalf of the same-sex couple.
In January 2015, an investigation by the bureau found the Kleins guilty of violating the state’s public accommodation law by denying Rachel and Laurel full and equal access to their bakery, which the state considers a place of public accommodation.
The Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is responsible for enforcing the state’s public accommodation law, and the judge who issued today’s proposed order works for the bureau.
In order to reach $135,000, Rachel and Laurel submitted a long list of alleged physical, emotional and mental damages they claim to have experienced as a result of the Kleins’ unlawful conduct.
One of the women, whose name was redacted to protect her privacy, listed 88 symptoms as grounds for compensation. The other, whose name was also redacted, listed 90.
Examples of symptoms include “acute loss of confidence,” “doubt,” “excessive sleep,” “felt mentally raped, dirty and shameful,” “high blood pressure,” “impaired digestion,” “loss of appetite,” “migraine headaches,” “pale and sick at home after work,” “resumption of smoking habit,” “shock” “stunned,” “surprise,” “uncertainty,” “weight gain” and “worry.”
>>> Read the full complaint below.
Anna Harmon, the Kleins’ lawyer, told The Daily Signal that during the hearing “there was no expert testimony.”
The witnesses at the hearing were the two women who were requesting a cake, one of their mothers, one of their brothers and another family member. There was no doctor, there was no psychologist, no expert testimony at all.
In collecting the fine, Harmon said the state isn’t just pursuing the Kleins’ business assets, but their personal livelihood as well.
“An important thing to understand about the damages the state is claiming in this case is that the [fine] isn’t going to come from liquidating business assets,” she said.
Their business is gone. They don’t have business assets so when we talk about [the fine], it’s personal. It means that’s money they would have used to feed their children that they can’t use anymore.
In September 2013, after facing public backlash, the Kleins had to close their bakery.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries did not respond to The Daily Signal’s multiple requests for comment.
Paul Thompson, the attorney representing the lesbians, previously said he has “a policy of not discussing cases that are the subject of open litigation.”
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Aaron, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal on Sunday, said the state of Oregon is attempting to “obliterate” his family.
“The state is now saying that we can award damages above and beyond what you have already suffered … and they have no qualms about doing this,” he said. “It is really showing the state is taking a stance on absolutely obliterating somebody that takes a different stance than the state has.”
The recommended fine will now go to to state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who can either accept it or adjust the amount in issuing a final order.
List of Complaints Alleged Against Aaron and Melissa Klein