Last week, Oregon ordered the owners of the infamous “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” bakery to pay damages to a lesbian couple they had discriminated against, and subsequently harassed — and conservative media, of course, got it all horribly wrong.
In January 2013, when Laurel Bowman and Rachel Cryer planned to marry, they selected a bakery they had done business with before: Sweet Cakes by Melissa. The couple had no idea what horrible anti-gay discrimination and acrimony the bakery owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, had in store for them — simply because they are gay.
Four years earlier, the Bowman-Cryers moved from Texas to Oregon seeking an inclusive community and friendlier state. They settled into the Portland suburb of Gresham. A few years later, with marriage equality nearing, the couple hoped to adopt their foster kids, and to tie the knot!
Cryer wanted a grand wedding. Her mother came to town, and they visited a local bridal show where they noticed the Sweet Cakes by Melissa booth. They’d ordered from Melissa’s Sweet Cakes once before — for Cryer’s mother’s wedding — and they enjoyed it. So, they scheduled a Sweet Cake tasting for the following day.
When Cryer and her mother arrived at Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Aaron Klein ushered them to his office, where he then asked for the names of the bride and groom. Told there would be two brides, he refused service right then and there. “I believe I have wasted your time,” he claims to have said. “We do not do cakes for same-sex weddings.”
Crying and apologizing to her mother, who Cryer felt she’d deeply embarrassed, she headed to the car. A few moments later, her mother returned to the bakery to defend her daughter. She reasoned with Aaron Klein, saying that she’d once felt as he did, but after having two gay children, her “truth had changed.”
In response, Aaron Klein referenced a Bible verse from Leviticus — which in context, he’d cited perniciously — to call the Bowman-Cryer family “abominations,” which he denies.
When they arrived back home, Cryer retired to bed, distraught and questioning nearly everything. Bowman tried to console her, without success. Bowman always viewed herself as Cryer’s protector, and wondered if a wedding was a good idea if it came with such heavy cost to her family’s emotional well being. One of their kids became upset amidst the emotional tumult.
This was the second time they’d faced discrimination, just trying to plan a wedding as a gay couple. Determined in defending her fiancé and trying to make the world a better place, Bowman filed a consumer complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ).
“In november of 2011 my fiancé and I purchased a wedding cake from this establishment for her mother’s wedding. We spent 250. When we decided to get married ourselves chose to back and purchase a second cake. Today, January 17, 2013, we went for our cake tasting. When asked for a grooms name my soon to be mother in law informed them of my name. The owner then proceeded to say we were abominations unto the lord and refused to make another cake for us despite having already paid 250 once and having done business in the past. We were then informed that our money was not equal, my fiancé reduced to tears. This is absolutely unacceptable.”
Cryer spent the most part of the next few days in bed, recovering as her loved ones took to actions. Cryer’s mom left a review on the Sweet Cakes’ Facebook page, cautioning customers on the bakery’s secret “no same-sex wedding” policy. Bowman sent an email to their wedding venue, doing similarly.
It wouldn’t be long till Sweet Cakes’ referral network began to dry up. The people of Gresham, Oregon knew discrimination is wrong — and they’d prefer not to be associated with that sort of bigotry.
The Kleins did not go out of business nor did they go bankrupt, contrary to what the right wing claims. They chose to close their brick-and-mortar shop and take their business online, as many companies do.
Later, the Oregon DOJ sent Cryer’s consumer complaint to the Kleins, with a cover letter requesting that they respond to the complainants. It was an attempt to encourage reconciliation.
Instead, Aaron Klein posted the discrimination complaint to Facebook (not taking the precaution of redacting the couple’s name and address from the document). “This is what happens when you tell gay people you won’t do their ‘wedding cake,'” he posted.
The Kleins then took to the news and media. They cozied up to anti-gay hate group Family Research Council, campaigning at appallingly anti-gay hate rallies, for their business’ totally-fictional right to discriminate against LGBT people.
After filing the discrimination complaint, the Bowman-Cryers became the victims of death threats — as well as outrageous and horrific claims by conservative media outlets and anti-gay groups.
After the ruling was finalized, in stories about the discrimination case, some right wing sites, and some anti-gay users of social media depicted gays, and implicitly the Bowman-Cryers, as fascists, the BOLI as the “Minister of Thoughtcrime,” and the $135,000 fine as a “gay fascism tax.”
All they’d done was file a discrimination complaint. That’s all.
Meanwhile, Bowman & Cryer remained so humbly quiet, concerned with their relationship and family. Sadly, they feared that the negative media attention stirred by the Kleins could endanger their care for and the planned adoption of their two foster children. (The kids’ adoption has since been finalized, thankfully.)
Fortunately, the good State of Oregon has public accommodation laws protecting minorities from discrimination. Even better, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) proved so-very capable in investigating and enforcing those laws. Their Final Order against Aaron & Melissa Klein eloquently cut through the cake to the underlying legal matter, discrimination:
This isn’t about cake. It is about a business’ refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.
Within Oregon’s public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, has the freedom to fully participate in society. The ability to enter public places, to shop, to dine, to move about unfettered by bigotry.
The agency announced the order in a press release, writing:
The BOLI Final Order awards $60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer for emotional suffering stemming directly from unlawful discrimination. The amounts are damages related to the harm suffered by the Complainants, not fines or civil penalties which are punitive in nature.
The Final Order notes that the non-economic damages are consistent with the agency’s previous orders, such as an earlier ruling against a Bend dentist In the Matter of Andrew W. Engle. In that case, BOLI awarded a Christian employee $325,000 in damages for physical, mental and emotion suffering due to religious discrimination and harassment.
According to BOLI’s reasoning, a portion of those emotional damages resulted from the Kleins’ public statements and actions in response to receiving the complaint.
“The Agency’s theory of liability is that since Respondents brought the case to the media’s attention and kept it there by repeatedly appearing in public to make statements deriding Complainants, it was foreseeable that this attention would negatively impact Complainants, making Respondents liable for any resultant emotional suffering experienced by Complainants. The Agency also argues that Respondents are liable for negative third party social media directed at Complainants because it was a foreseeable consequence of media attention.”
It’s important to note, as the Washington Post’s Eugene Volokh pointed out, that the “agency’s theory of liability” – the agency being BOLI – was rejected by the final determining authority, BOLI Commissioner Brad Avakian, as stated in the final finding of facts:
The Commissioner concludes that complainants’ emotional harm related to the denial of service continued throughout the period of media attention and that the facts related solely to emotional harm resulting from media attention do not adequately support an award of damages. No further analysis regarding the media attention as a causative factor is, therefore, necessary.
But again, the BOLI stated, its “Final Order awards $60,000 in damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 in damages to Rachel Bowman-Cryer for emotional suffering stemming directly from unlawful discrimination.”
BOLI’s order finds no difference between being a homosexual and being a to-be-wed homosexual wedding-cake customer. That seems obvious, but it’s logic lost upon the Kleins. After all, they served the Bowman-Cryer’s before the couple became engaged, and discriminated against them only after learning of the couple’s engagement.
In addition to an order of emotional damages, BOLI ordered the Kleins to “cease and desist” discriminating in their business and to stop promoting their business’ policy of discrimination, in accordance with Oregon law.
It must be noted that BOLI isn’t a court of law, it’s a state business regulatory agency. However, the agency’s regulatory power in the case appears soundly-backed by Oregon law. The BOLI order asserts several court decisions and Oregon law to rebuttress the agency’s enforcement authority in accommodation cases.
If the Kleins did not feel the least bit ignorant for discriminating against a to-be-wed gay couple — surely they do now? After all this — two years of acrimony and anti-gay harassment, and a solid regulatory ruling against them. They do not.
They signaled intent to appeal in a Facebook post following the ruling, writing that the BOLI order “effectively strips us of all our First Amendment Rights. According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech.”
Conservative media outlets, like Breitbart and several others, and hate groups, like the Family Research Council, ran with that — posting stories that the Kleins had been subjected to a gag order by the state. That’s factually incorrect. The Kleins have not been issued a gag order, nor are they prohibited from speaking about the case, as they and others allege.
BOLI’s order draws a distinction between the promotion of practiced discriminatory business policy, and religious freedoms or free speech (including political speeches); a distinction the Kleins’ attorneys should advise their clients on—for the sake of their client’s business understanding, if not for the sake of community.
Following the BOLI order, the Bowman-Cryer’s attorney offered a statement from the family:
“This has been a terrible ordeal for our entire family. We never imagined finding ourselves caught up in a fight for social justice,” they said. “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.”
Editor’s note: All the details in this report come from the State of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) final finding of fact, unless otherwise linked. For more, see also OregonLive and Snopes.
Editor’s note II: 07.11.15 –
In order to be as comprehensive and accurate as possible, this article has been updated to include analysis published after our original publication date from Washington Post’s Eugene Volokh, as noted above.
CORRECTION [July 7, 2015]: Thanks to Paul F. Thompson, civil rights attorney for the Bowman-Cryer family, for pointing out that in writing the story I’d somehow swapped Bowman and Cryer’s names. I regret that error and the story has been corrected. — BC
Image: Screenshot via YouTube
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‘Bad News’ for Sidney Powell as First Trump Co-Defendant in Georgia RICO Case Takes Plea Deal: Legal Expert
“Under the terms of an agreement with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s office, Hall pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit election fraud, conspiracy to commit computer theft, conspiracy to commit computer trespass, conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy, and conspiracy to defraud the state,” NBC News reports. “Under the terms of the deal, he’s being sentenced to five years probation.”
CNN previously reported “Hall, a bail bondsman and pro-Trump poll-watcher in Atlanta, spent hours inside a restricted area of the Coffee County elections office when voting systems were breached in January 2021. The breach was connected to efforts by pro-Trump conspiracy theorists to find voter fraud. Hall was captured on surveillance video at the office, on the day of the breach. He testified before the grand jury in Fulton County case and acknowledged that he gained access to a voting machine.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, a professor of law and frequent MSNBC contributor, says Hall “was in the thick of things with Sidney Powell on Jan 7 for the Coffee County scheme involving voting machines. If he’s cooperating, it’s a bad sign for her.”
Hall’s plea deal “spells bad news for, among others, Sidney Powell,” says former Dept. of Defense Special Counsel Ryan Goodman, an NYU Law professor of law. Goodman posted a graphic showing the overlap in charges against Hall and Powell, which he called “alleged joint actions.”
With breakthrough for Georgia DA (@TamarHallerman reporting: “SCOTT HALL has become the first co-defendant in the Fulton election interference case to take a plea deal with prosecutors.”)
That spells bad news for, among others, Sidney Powell.
Example of alleged joint actions.👇 pic.twitter.com/odMM5C7JtX
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) September 29, 2023
See the graphic above or at this link.
Far-Right Republicans Kill GOP Bill to Keep Government Running in ‘Embarrassing Failure’ for McCarthy: Report
With a shutdown less than 36 hours away, far-right Republicans in the House of Representatives Friday afternoon voted against their party’s own legislation to kept the federal government running. Democrats opposed the content of the bill and voted against it. Just 21 far-right members of the GOP conference were able to effectively force what appears to be an all but inevitable shutdown at midnight on Saturday.
“HARDLINE HOUSE RS take down stopgap funding bill. 21 GOP no votes. 232-198,” reported Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman just before 2 PM Friday.
NBC News reported that a “band of conservative rebels on Friday revolted and blocked House Republicans’ short-term funding bill to keep the government open, delivering a political blow to Speaker Kevin McCarthy and likely cementing the chances of a painful government shutdown that is less than 48 hours away.”
“Twenty-one rebels, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a conservative bomb-thrower and a top Donald Trump ally, voted Friday afternoon to scuttle the 30-day funding bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, leaving Republicans without a game plan to avert a shutdown. The vote failed,” NBC added. “The embarrassing failure of the GOP measure once again highlights the dilemma for McCarthy as his hard-liners strongly oppose a short-term bill even if it includes conservative priorities. It leaves Congress on a path to a shutdown, with no apparent offramp to avoiding it — or to quickly reopen the government.”
A bipartisan group of at least 75 U.S. Senators has passed two bills this week that would keep the government running. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has refused to allow it to come to the floor for a vote.
‘Wannabe Dictator’: Milley Appears to Slam Trump After Ex-President Suggested He Should Be Executed
General Mark Milley, the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military advisor to the President, during his retirement speech Friday appeared to deliver strong criticism of former President Donald Trump, who appointed him to that post but since has waged war against him.
“Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous, not just because it is the exact sort that incites violence against public officials,” professor of global politics and political scientist Brian Klass wrote at The Atlantic after Trump’s most recent attack on the Chairman, “but also because it shows just how numb the country has grown toward threats more typical of broken, authoritarian regimes.”
Trump had written, “if the Fake News reporting is correct,” General Milley “was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States. This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act.”
Milley was acting within his duties in a White House approved conversation, according to Klass.
On Friday, Milley appeared to blast Trump.
“We don’t take an oath to a tribe. We don’t take an oath to a religion. We don’t take an oath to a king, or queen, or a tyrant, or dictator. We don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator,” Milley declared. “We don’t take an oath to an individual. We take an oath to the Constitution, and we take an oath to the idea that is America, and we’re willing to die to protect it.”
“Every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, Guardian and Coast Guardsmen, each of us, emits our very life to protect and defend that document, regardless of personal price to a country.”
Vanity Fair on Thursday reported General Milley “said he has taken security precautions to protect himself and his family after Donald Trump all but called for his execution last week.”
Watch Milley’s remarks below or at this link.
🚨🚨🚨Wow, outgoing CJS Chair Milley hits Trump at retirement ceremony: “We don’t take an oath to a king, or queen, or a tyrant or a dictator. And we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator …we take an oath to the Constitution … and we’re willing to die to protect it”. pic.twitter.com/AH2eQObge4
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) September 29, 2023
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