Debunking a Big Media Myth: The Real Reason the Anti-Gay Bakers in Oregon Were Fined $135,000
The anti-LGBT owners of an Oregon bakery were not fined for refusing to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple – they were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages for intentionally causing their would-be customers emotional distress.
The case has attracted widespread media attention since the couple first filed their complaint in January 2013, and that is largely through the efforts of Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
After the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries handed down the order last week, Aaron Klein claimed the ruling was an example of the “persecution of Christians” in the U.S.
However, the ruling shows the bakery owners had made Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer the victims of persecution and makes clear the payment was compensation for damages and not a fine or civil penalty, reported the blog Love, Joy and Feminism.
The ruling shows the Kleins “brought the case to the media’s attention and kept it there by repeatedly appearing in public to make statements deriding” the couple who filed the complaint.
“It was foreseeable that this attention would negatively impact (the Bowman-Cryers), making (the Kleins) liable for any resultant emotional suffering experienced by (them),” the agency found.
Not only that, as the blog explains, the bakery owners shared the couple’s personal contact information – which led to death threats that nearly caused them to lose custody of their foster children.
Laurel Bowman-Cryer filed the complaint in January 2013, after she and her mother had met with Aaron Klein – who refused them service and quoted an anti-LGBT verse from Leviticus.
She filed her complaint by smartphone, which prevented her from seeing a disclaimer notifying her that her full name and address would be sent to the bakery owners – and Aaron Klein shared that information, along with the complaint, on his personal Facebook page.
Conservative media and anti-LGBT organizations such as the Family Research Council promoted the Kleins as victims of religious discrimination.
Rachel Bowman-Cryer said she and her wife received a steady stream of threats that continued as the Kleins promoted their side of the case in national media appearances.
She testified that state adoption officials told them they were responsible for keeping their two foster daughters safe from those threats, and they feared they could lose custody of the girls — who they have since adopted.
In its final order, issued last week, the labor bureau found the Kleins had violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws – but the damages awarded were not a “gay fascism tax,” as some commenters argued.
The bureau found the Kleins liable for the threats made by others against the couple and awarded them to pay “$60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer for emotional suffering.”