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Judge: Gresham bakers must pay $135,000 for 'emotional suffering' in gay wedding cake case
An administrative law judge has recommended that $135,000 be awarded to a lesbian couple for emotional suffering they felt when Gresham bakery Sweetcakes by Melissa refused to make a cake for their wedding ceremony.
Administrative Law Judge Allan McCullough included the recommended award in his April 21 111-page proposed order. The recommendation is not a fine or a penalty against Sweetcakes by Melissas operators Melissa and Aaron Klein, but an award for emotional distress that the couple felt because of the discrimination.
The Kleins refused in January 2013 to make a wedding cake for Laurel Bowman-Cryer and Rachel Bowman-Cryers wedding ceremony. Aaron Klein declined the request to make the cake based on his religious beliefs. Slightly more than two years earlier, the Kleins had made a wedding cake for Cryers mother, Cheryl McPherson.
Cryer and Bowman filed separate discrimination complaints against the Gresham bakery in August and November 2013.
In September 2013, the Kleins closed their Gresham shop and moved the business into their home, where they made custom cakes.
McCulloughs proposed order awards $60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer. According to the proposed order, McCullough said the Kleins violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public places.
According to BOLI officials, the agency has only found evidence of violations in six investigations of Equality Act accommodations complaints in the seven years.
Oregons Bureau of Labor and Industries will use McCulloughs proposed award as part of its final order. Both the Kleins and BOLI administrative prosecutors will review the proposed order and may file exceptions. Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian will issue the agencys final ord er in the case. Once a final order has been set, the respondents can appeal the ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Groups square off
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a supporter of the Kleins, said the decision was an egregious assault on the freedom Americans have to peaceably live their lives according to their beliefs.
A government able to bankrupt people for standing by their deepest beliefs is a government of unbridled power and a threat to everyones freedom, Perkins said in an April 24 statement. Our prayer and hope is that these fines will be overturned by a judge who remains committed to constitutional freedoms and that individual liberty will triumph over intrusive over reaching government.
Basic Rights Oregon, which advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Oregon, issued statements praising the decision and BOLI for taking on the case.
Jeana Frazzini, Basic Rights Oregons co-director, said the case struck a chord with many Oregonians because allowing businesses to deny goods and services to people because of who they are and whom they love is hurtful and wrong.
Nancy Haque, Basic Rights Oregons co-director, said Sweetcakes owners could not rely on their religious beliefs to deny services. Religious freedom is a fundamental part of America, and is written into our states constitution already, she said. But those beliefs dont entitle any of us to discriminate against others. Religious liberty should not be used to discriminate against people.