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Judge proposes Oregon bakery pay $135,000 to lesbian couple

Judge proposes Oregon bakery pay $135,000 to lesbian couple

PORTLAND, Ore. — An administrative law judge proposed Friday that the owners of a suburban Portland bakery pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple who were refused service more than two years ago.

The judge, Alan McCullough, ruled in January that Sweet Cakes by Melissa discriminated against Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer by refusing to bake them a wedding cake. The bakers cited their religious beliefs in a case that has been cited in the national debate over religious freedom and discrimination against gays.

Friday’s proposed order, which runs 110 pages, dealt with the award for emotional suffering. The judge awarded $75,000 to Rachel Bowman-Cryer and $60,000 to her wife.

The sides will review the proposal and have the opportunity to file exceptions before Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian issues a final order.

A 2007 Oregon law protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations. It provides an exemption for religious organizations but does not allow private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Avakian’s office said in a statement Friday that the facts “clearly demonstrate” that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the women.

Bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein closed their Gresham store in 2013 and operate their business from home. One of their attorneys, Anna Harmon, criticized the order, noting that same-sex marriage was not legal in Oregon at the time of the cake request.

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“This is a shocking result which shows the state’s relentless campaign to punish Oregonians who live and work according to their faith,” Harmon said.

“Aaron and Melissa have worked hard for what they have,” she added. “They are living on the fruits of American entrepreneurship. Now the State of Oregon, through an administrative agency, has ordered that all they worked for should be taken away simply because they declined to participate in an event which violated their religious beliefs.”

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The case began when Rachel Bowman-Cryer went to the suburban Portland bakery with her mother in January 2013. They met with Aaron Klein, who asked for the date of the ceremony and the names of the bride and groom.

When told there was no groom, Klein said he was sorry but the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. According to documents from the case, Rachel and her mother left the shop, but returned a short time later. As Rachel remained in the car, in tears, her mother went in to speak with Klein.

The mother told Klein she had once thought like him, but her “truth had changed” when she had two gay children. Klein responded by quoting Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

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The attorney for the Bowman-Cryers, Paul Thompson, declined comment Friday, saying the case is still active.

Jeana Frazzini, co-director of the gay-rights group Basic Rights Oregon, praised the proposed order: “This 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.”

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