There’s a new layer of controversies in the discrimination case involving Sweet Cakes by Melissa, the Gresham, Ore., bakery whose owners refused to provide a cake for two women’s wedding in 2013.
An administrative law judge with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries issued a proposed order Friday that says owners Aaron and Melissa Klein should be fined $135,000 for violating the state’s antidiscrimination law, reports Portland newspaper The Oregonian. The order is not final — there are several other steps before it is set — but an online crowdfunding campaign was launched the same day on the bakery’s behalf, then taken down after a few hours because it violated GoFundMe’s terms of service. A Portland baker had objected to the campaign, but it was unclear if that figured in GoFundMe’s action.
“After careful review by our team, we have found the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign to be in violation of our Terms and Conditions,” said a statement issued by GoFundMe. “The money raised thus far will still be made available for withdrawal. While a different campaign was recently permitted for a pizzeria in Indiana, no laws were violated and the campaign remained live. However, the subjects of the ‘Support Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ campaign have been formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law concerning discriminatory acts. Accordingly, the campaign has been disabled.”
That’s led some supporters of the bakery to cry foul, including the owners themselves. “Satan’s really at work but I know our God has a plan and wins in the end!” they wrote on Facebook Friday. But an evangelical Christian group, Samaritan’s Purse, took up the fundraising campaign.
“They have taken a stand for the Word of God, and they should not have to stand alone,” Samaritan’s Purse president Franklin Graham, a marriage equality opponent and the son of Billy Graham, said on the organization’s website. “I believe that Christians across our nation will rally around Aaron and Melissa and their five children. Please pray for Aaron and Melissa, and pray for our nation. When our judges are punishing Christians for practicing what they believe, that’s persecution, plain and simple.”
Rachel Cryer-Bowman and Laurel Bowman-Cryer complained to state authorities after the bakers refused to provide their wedding cake. In January 2014 the Bureau of Labor and Industries charged the Kleins with discrimination based on sexual orientation, in violation of Oregon law. Judge Alan McCullough issued his order on damages after hearing four days of testimony.
The Kleins can now file exceptions to the order, and one of their attorneys has already pledged to fight it, The Oregonian reports. “Following that, state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian will set the amount of damages,” the paper notes. “Avakian’s order, expected this summer, can be challenged in the Oregon Court of Appeals.”