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Owners of 'Sweet Cakes' bakery in court to appeal fine

GRESHAM, Ore. — Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a Gresham bakery that refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple, was in appeals court Thursday over a decision ordering them to pay the couple $135,000 in damages.

Melissa and Aaron Klein had refused to bake a cake Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her wife, Laurel back in February 2013.

"I'm thankful we actually got to have our day in court. This is the first time we've been in a court where due process was recognized," said Aaron Klein.

"We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build," said Melissa Klein. "I loved my shop. It meant everything to me and losing it has been so hard for me and my family."

They ended up closing the store several months later due to backlash, but continued the business from home with the help of online donations. Melissa Klein said Thursday she's since ended her online business as well.

The state ruled Sweet Cakes had discriminated against the lesbian couple, and in July 2015, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered the Kleins pay $135,000 for emotional damages suffered.

Reading a statement on behalf of the Bowman-Cryers, attorney Paul Thomas said, "While our family has suffered because of it, it's not really about our wedding or our marriage. This case is about answering one fundamental question: Is it okay for a business to refuse service because of the business owners religious beliefs rather?"

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, disability, age, or religion.

"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 Kleins have paid the $135,000 in damages, but that money is currently in a government escrow account because they appealed the decision.

There is no set timeline for the Oregon Court of Appeals to deliver a decision in the case.

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