Final order: Sweet Cakes bakery must pay $135,000 to lesbian couple
PORTLAND, Ore. The owners of a Gresham bakery must pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple who were refused service more than two years ago, the Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled Thursday.
In January, a judge ruled that Sweet Cakes by Melissa unlawfully discriminated against a same-sex couple by refusing to bake a cake for their wedding.
The final order awards a combined $135,000 for emotional damages to the victims, Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her wife, Laurel.
"This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business's refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal," the bureau's final order states.
"Within Oregon's public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, has the freedom to fully participate in society. The ability to enter public places, to shop, to dine, to move about unfettered by bigotry."
The Oregon Equality Act of 2007 says businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation - just as they cannot turn away customers because of their race, sex, diability, age, or religion.
It provides an exemption for religious organizations, schools, and serving alcohol to minors, but does not allow private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
The defendants, bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein, can now file with the Oregon Court of Appeal.
The Kleins closed their Gresham store in 2013 and operate their business from home. One of their attorneys, Anna Harmon, criticized the order, noting that same-sex marriage was not legal in Oregon at the time of the cake request.
"This is a shocking result which shows the state's relentless campaign to punish Oregonians who live and work according to their faith," Harmon said.
"Aaron and Melissa have worked hard for what they have," she added. "They are living on the fruits of American entrepreneurship. Now the State of Oregon, through an administrative agency, has ordered that all they worked for should be taken away simply because they declined to participate in an event which violated their religious beliefs."
Associated Press writer Steven DuBois contributed to this report.