- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa have paid a hefty $135,000 in state-mandated damages for “emotional suffering” inflicted by their refusal to prepare a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding.

Charlie Burr, spokesman for the Oregon Business and Labor and Industry, said Tuesday that Aaron and Melissa Klein made a payment Monday of $136,927.07 after the state hired a private collection agency and confiscated about $7,000 from their bank account.

The Kleins were ordered July 2 to pay $135,000 after an administrative law judge ruled that they had violated state anti-discrimination law by declining in January 2013 to make a wedding cake for the same-sex ceremony.

“We have been in regular contact with their attorneys about the amount needed to satisfy the order,” said Mr. Burr in an email to the Washington Times. “The payment due – factoring in the $6900 or so already collected – was $136,927.07 if they paid on 12/19. They paid yesterday and may have overpaid $35. If so, we will refund them the overpayment.”

The total of the damages award plus interest comes to nearly $144,000.

The Kleins initially cited financial hardship as the reason for failing to pay the damages award, according to the Oregonian, but have since raised more than $500,000 through two crowdfunding sites.

Mr. Klein told the Daily Signal in October that he did not recognize the authority of state labor commissioner Brad Avakian, who issued the damages award on behalf of Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer for emotional, physical and psychological distress.

“If a civil court or a circuit court judge had made this order, I would consider it legally binding. But when a bureaucracy does it and I didn’t get due process, I don’t call it legally binding,” Mr. Klein said.

Mr. Klein also cited the fees associated with obtaining a bond, which he said would not be reimbursed even if he won his appeal, as well as an interview with the Willamette Week in which the lesbians said they said they had not sought the money, but only wanted an apology.

“When you have these girls come out and say we never wanted the money, it wasn’t about the money and we don’t need the money … and I say, ‘This isn’t right, I shouldn’t have to pay this money,’ and the only person saying the money should exchange hands seems to be Brad Avakian,” Mr. Klein said.

The Kleins, who had argued that participating in a same-sex wedding by creating a special custom cake for it would violate their Christian beliefs, have appealed the case to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Tyler Smith, a lawyer representing the Kleins, told Reuters that the bakery owners are “devoted to honoring God in every aspect of their lives, including how they conduct themselves in this litigation.”

The Kleins declined to prepare a cake for the couple before Oregon legally recognized same-sex marriage in 2014.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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