Oregon fines bakery owners for denying service to same-sex couple

Melissa and Aaron Klein of Sweet Cakes as seen on Samaritan's Purse website, April 25, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Owners of a Portland-area bakery that denied service to a same-sex couple must pay $135,000 in damages.

Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries on Thursday ruled that Sweet Cakes by Melissa’s refusal to bake a wedding cake for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer constituted unlawful discrimination.

The agency said a state exemption for religious organizations and schools does not allow private business owners to deny service to potential customers because of sexual orientation.

In a statment released Thursday afternoon, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer said, in part:

“…This has been a horrible ordeal for our entire family. We never imagined finding ourselves caught up in a fight for social justice. We knew it was on us to set an example for our two kids – to stand up for what is right. We endured daily, hateful attacks on social media, received death threats and feared for our family’s safety, yet our goal remained steadfast. We were determined to ensure that this kind of blatant discrimination never happened to another couple, another family, another Oregonian…”

The bakers said their refusal to bake was prompted by religious beliefs. The case has been cited in the national debate over religious freedom and discrimination against gays.

Bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein closed their Gresham store in 2013 and operate the business from home. They can still file an appeal with the Oregon Court of Appeals.

KOIN 6 News contributed to this report.

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