Two days after a bakery in Oregon was ordered to pay $135,000 in damages to a lesbian couple to whom it refused service, fundraising efforts are underway to help the couple at the centre of the controversy pay off the fine
According the Oregon Bureau of Labour and Industries, Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the Oregon-based Sweet Cakes by Melissa, violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws when they refused to make a wedding cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer in 2013.
The couple claimed that their refusal of services was in accordance with their religious beliefs towards gay marriage, a stance that led to widespread criticism of the bakery and the ensuing lawsuit.
“The law provides an exemption for religious organisations and schools, but does not allow private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot legally deny service based on race, sex, age, disability or religion,” said bureau spokesman Charlie Burr, according to Reuters.
The bakery, according to Mr Burr’s statement, is not considered a religious institution under the law.
State Labour Commissioner Brad Avakian will now review the ruling and make a final decision on the damages. He has the power to raise, lower, or confirm the proposed fines.
Soon after news of the initial ruling broke, a GoFundMe page was started in support of the bakery. After receiving over $100,000 in donations, however, the campaign was shut down by site administrators for “raising money for illegal purposes”, said a post on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page.
“We have told gofundme that the money is simply going to be used to help our family, and their is no breach of their terms and conditions. We are working to get the account reinstated."
“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. The money raised thus far will still be made available for withdrawal,” read a statement from GoFundMe, according to the website GoLocalPDX.
“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.”
In lieu of the GoFundMe account, the bakery directed potential donors to a fund set up through Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organisation run by Franklin Graham, the son of evangelical minister Billy Graham.
“Satan’s really at work but I know God has a plan and wins in the end!” read a statement posted on the Sweet Cakes Facebook page soon after the initial campaign was shut down.
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