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Nearly $350,000 donated to Kleins in wake of discrimination judgment



Sweet Cakes by Melissa owners Aaron and Melissa Klein, who became part of the national dialogue after refusing to bake a cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer’s wedding in 2013, are receiving significant support in the wake of a Bureau of Labor Industries ruling against the business.

A new crowdfunding campaign has raised well more than the $135,000 in damages the bureau assessed the business in a ruling on July 2. The Kleins cited religious beliefs as their reasoning for denying the Bownman-Cryers’ service, but the bureau determined that refusing service to the couple was an act of discrimination. FILE PHOTO - Since 2013, the Sweet Cakes by Melissa case has garnered protest both for and against. That protest has continued following a July 2 order in favor of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer.

“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business’ refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal,” wrote Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian in his final order. “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.”

A proposed order issued in late April prompted a crowdfunding campaign set up on GoFundMe to pay for the Klein’s fine. GoFundMe promptly shut down the campaign after it raised about $100,000, but a new one was subsequently established on ContinueToGive.com.

In one week, the campaign raised 233 percent of the goal — equal to about $350,000 — and contributions continue to climb as the Kleins continue sharing their story through the news media.

Another account was set up on SamaritansPurse.org under the headline, “Persecution Against U.S. Christians On the Rise,” but the site does not indicate how much money has been raised for the bakery, which closed its storefront at 44 N.E. Division St. in the wake of the controversy.

As has been recently popular in contentious cases surrounding social issues, a petition of support is circulating on the American Family Association website. The petition has more than 30,000 supporters since it was posted at 8 a.m., Thursday, July 9, stating they “stand with” the Kleins and “will continue to pray for the Klein family and Sweet Cakes by Melissa.”

The Bowman-Cryers said they never imagined being caught in a fight for social justice.FILE PHOTO - Owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa posted a sign in their Division Street business after it closed in February 2013.

“We knew it was on us to set an example for our two kids — to stand up for what is right. We endured daily, hateful attacks on social media, received death threats and feared for our family’s safety, yet our goal remained steadfast,” Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer said in a statement. “We were determined to ensure that this kind of blatant discrimination never happened to another couple, another family, another Oregonian. Everyone deserves to be treated as an equal member of society. The Kleins violated the law, and we are relieved that BOLI stood up with us to hold them accountable.”

Amid continued circulation and argument of the case is a rumor of a gag order preventing the Kleins from speaking about their case and beliefs. Although untrue, supporters cite the rumor among other alleged First Amendment rights violations as their cause for donating to the couple.

The confusion may stem from the final order itself, which said the Kleins were not allowed to continue discrimination against same-sex couples.

The gag order rumor apparently surfaced after an interview with Tony Perkins on the Christian Broadcasting Network. While the Kleins are allowed to talk about their case and their beliefs, they are not allowed to state publicly that their business will refuse service to gay couples.

The Kleins say they plan to appeal the judgement against them, but BOLI has contacted the couple to sort out details of the payment.

As of Monday, July 13, the Kleins submitted a stay of enforcement request. BOLI Communications Director Charlie Burr said this stay request will be reviewed by the agency’s attorneys and they have 30 days to issue a response.

“Any person has the right to ask for a stay of enforcement and we review it and will look at the unique situation, and make a decision after hearing both from the respondents and also the agency’s prosecutors,” Burr said. “A stay of enforcement can mean multiple things. It can mean that they would not have to pay until the Court of Appeals process was done.”

Another option includes placing the payment in a trust until a Court of Appeals decision is issued, which could also deal with the cease and desist requirement. Until that initial decision from BOLI is made, the case’s resolution is on hold.


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