This Bakery Refused to Serve a Same-Sex Couple and It May Cost Them $135,000
Published: April 26, 2015 | Authors: Aviva Shen | Think Progress | News Report
A bakery that turned away a lesbian couple looking to buy a cake for their wedding will have to pay them an award of possibly $135,000 for emotional damages, a hearings officer said Friday. The sum is recommended by an administrative law judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), but it could change before a final decision is made.
Sweet Cakes by Melissa refused to sell a wedding cake to Oregon couple Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer in 2013, saying it went against their religious beliefs to contribute to a same-sex wedding. The BOLI investigation found that the company’s refusal violated the state’s nondiscrimination ordinance. While the prosecutors were originally seeking $150,000 for the couple, the law judge recommended that Rachel should collect $75,000 and Laurel $60,000 for emotional damages. Rachel and her mother were turned away after setting up a cake tasting with the bakers, and Laurel was not present — a fact the defense tried to argue meant she did not have standing in the complaint.
Owners Melissa and Aaron Klein quickly became heroes to the anti-LGBT conservative Christian community, and are often held up as proof that LGBT rights infringe on religious liberty. They closed down their storefront after intense backlash and now operate their business out of their home.
After the judge’s proposed order was released, the couple posted a statement on Facebook, saying, “This amount will financially ruin us. Our government was put in place to protect the people not to punish people because of their faith.” A GoFundMe crowdfunding page in support of the bakery was deleted after raising $109,000 on Friday, as GoFundMe’s terms of service do not allow fundraising for people found in violation of the law.
The bakers have ten days to file objections to the order, according to their attorney. The Labor Commissioner will then decide if the amount should be raised, lowered, or remain at $135,000.
More localities and states are adopting nondiscrimination ordinances like Oregon’s, which protect people from being fired or refused services on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. At the same time, “license to discriminate” bills and religious freedom protections are becoming popular with conservative lawmakers to shield businesses that wish to discriminate against LGBT people. Recent uproar against such laws in Indiana, Arkansas, Arizona, Oregon, and Georgia succeeded in defeating overt allowances for discrimination. But without nondiscrimination laws, which only 17 states have adopted, many more Americans will be turned away from private businesses, fired, and denied housing solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
BIO: Aviva Shen is Senior Editor of ThinkProgress. Aviva's work has appeared in outlets including Smithsonian Magazine, Salon, and New York Magazine. She also worked for the Slate Political Gabfest, a weekly politics podcast from Slate Magazine. Previously, she was part of the new media team in Ohio for the 2008 Obama campaign. Aviva received a B.A. in English and Writing from Barnard College.
Court Rules Bakery Illegally Discriminated Against Gay Couple
A Colorado judge today determined that a Lakewood bakery unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them a wedding cake.
Source: ACLUDavid Mullins and Charlie Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop last year, with Craig’s mother, to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. Mullins and Craig planned to marry in Massachusetts and then celebrate with family and friends back home in Colorado. Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips informed them that because of his religious beliefs the store’s policy was to deny service to customers who wished to order baked goods to celebrate a same-sex couple’s wedding.
“Being denied service by Masterpiece Cakeshop was offensive and dehumanizing especially in the midst of arranging what should be a joyful family celebration,” said Mullins. “No one should fear being turned away from a public business because of who they are. We are grateful to have the support of our community and our state, and we hope that today’s decision will help ensure that no one else will experience this kind of discrimination again in Colorado.”
Longstanding Colorado state law prohibits public accommodations, including businesses such as Masterpiece Cakeshop, from refusing service based on factors such as race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. Mullins and Craig filed complaints with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) contending that Masterpiece had violated this law. Earlier this year, the CCRD ruled that Phillips illegally discriminated against Mullins and Craig. Today’s decision from Judge Robert N. Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts affirms that finding.
“While we all agree that religious freedom is important, no one’s religious beliefs make it acceptable to break the law by discriminating against prospective customers,” said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “No one is asking Masterpiece’s owner to change his beliefs, but treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination plain and simple.”
Phillips admitted he had turned away other same-sex couples as a matter of policy. The CCRD’s decision noted evidence in the record that Phillips had expressed willingness to take a cake order for the “marriage” of two dogs, but not for the commitment ceremony of two women, and that he would not make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding celebration “just as he would not be willing to make a pedophile cake.”
“Masterpiece Cakeshop has willfully and repeatedly considered itself above the law when it comes to discriminating against customers, and the state has rightly determined otherwise,” said Sara R. Neel, staff attorney with the ACLU of Colorado. “It’s important for all Coloradans to be treated fairly by every business that is open to the public – that’s good for business and good for the community.”
Christian baker being sued over refusal to make Bert and Ernie-themed gay marriage cake says she 'knew in her heart' she couldn't complete the order
- The owner of a Christian bakery refused to make a pro-gay marriage cake
- Gay rights activist Gareth Lee's order for Bert and Ernie cake was declined
- Karen McArthur told court she 'knew in her heart' she couldn't bake cake
- Lawyer for equality campaigners says religious refusal was unlawful
A Christian baker who refused to make a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan has said she 'knew in her heart' she could not make the order.
Belfast-based Ashers Bakery refused to make a cake featuring an image of Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie below the motto 'Support Gay Marriage'.
Karen McArthur, one of the owners, gave evidence on the second day of the high-profile legal action being heard in Belfast's County Court.
Mrs McArthur told the court: 'I knew in my heart that I could not put that message on the cake.'
Northern Ireland's Equality Commission took the case against family-run Ashers Bakery on behalf a gay rights activist customer whose order was declined.
Gareth Lee, a volunteer member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, claimed he was left feeling like a 'lesser person' when his order was turned down.
It had been ordered for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia last May.
Mr Lee told the court yesterday that he was left 'shocked' and in 'disbelief' when Mrs McArthur rang him and told him she would not be processing the order he had already paid for.
Today Mrs McArthur told the court: 'The problem was with the message on the cake because, as a Christian, I do not support gay marriage.'
District judge Isobel Brownlie heard that nine members of the McArthur family work in the business, which makes and delivers cakes across the UK and Ireland.
Mrs McArthur and her husband Colin, who belong to Dunseverick Baptist Church, are the only shareholders with voting rights on how the company is run.
Under cross-examination from Robin Allen QC, Mrs McArthur told the court she had been a born-again Christian since the age of seven and 'sought to please God' in how she led her life.
She claimed she only took the order from Mr Lee in order to avoid a confrontation.
'I did not want to embarrass him or have a confrontation in the bakery,' Mrs McArthur told the court.
Public opinion on the landmark civil case has been split in Northern Ireland and beyond.
The Equality Commission, which monitors compliance with equality laws in the region, initially asked for the bakery to acknowledge it had breached legislation and offer 'modest' damages to the customer.