Christian bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein were fined $135,000 by an Oregon state judge on charges of sexual orientation discrimination on Thursday, July 2. The Kleins were found guilty of violating an Oregon state law when they denied wedding cake services to a homosexual couple in February 2013. The law entitles all people in Oregon to the privileges of equal treatment in places of public accommodation regardless of “race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, or age.”
The Kleins openly professed their firm Christian belief that God-ordained marriage is designed to be between a man and a woman. Their refusal to grant equal treatment to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple led up to a two-year long civil rights battle. The Bowman-Cryers did not hesitate to report Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. The bakery owners were found guilty of violating Oregon’s Equality Act of 2007 on January 2014.
"According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech,” wrote the Kleins in a social media post. “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!"
While the lesbian couple fought for equality, the Kleins battled to remain true to their Christian beliefs and advocated for rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. They sought to reclaim the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech found in the First Amendment. In April 2015, Administrative Law Judge Alan McCullough ruled in favor of the Bowman-Cryers. McCullough initiated a court mandate for the Kleins to pay the plaintiffs $135,000 in emotional damages and for advertising their views in public.
“We endured daily, hateful attacks on social media, received death threats and feared for our family's safety, yet our goal remained steadfast. We were determined to ensure that this kind of blatant discrimination never happened to another couple, another family, another Oregonian," stated the Bowman-Cryers. "Everyone deserves to be treated as an equal member of society."
An online campaign entitled “Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa” was created on GoFundMe, an online fundraising website to pay for the fine in April 2015. The couple raised more than $100,000 within eight hours with donations pouring in from anonymous donors. It was shut down for violating the site’s terms of service. GoFundMe released a statement explaining that the campaign was disabled due to formal charges made by local authorities and because the Kleins were “found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts.” Although it was disabled, they will still receive the money raised.