A bakery in Portland has been ordered to pay a same-sex couple a whopping $135,000 in damages for refusing to serve them.
In January 2013, Sweet Cakes by Melissa turned away Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer, who had asked the shop to bake their wedding cake, because of owners Aaron and Melissa Klein’s Christian views.
The couple filed a discrimination complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), resulting in a long-running legal and public battle.
On Thursday, the bureau issued its final ruling that the bakery must pay for the emotional suffering the women had experienced due to the discrimination.
Under Oregon law, businesses cannot discriminate or refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion, said BOLI in a statement.
It explained that while the Oregon Equality Act includes an exemption for religious organisations and schools, it does not allow private business owners to deny service and unlawfully discriminate against potential customers.
“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,” reads the 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.”
In a post on the bakery’s Facebook page, the owners vowed to fight the ruling and are expected to appeal the decision.
“We will NOT give up this fight, and we will NOT be silenced,” said the Kleins. “We stand for God’s truth, God’s word and freedom for ALL Americans. We are here to obey God not man, and we will not conform to this world. If we were to lose everything it would be totally worth it for our Lord who gave his one and only son, Jesus, for us! God will win this fight!”
The Kleins were earlier forced to close down their store as a result of the bad publicity from the controversy and suppliers refusing to work with them.