A Clash of Church and Cake
Image: Getty Images

Aaron and Melissa Klein shuttered their Portland bakery two years ago, after being accused of violating Oregon’s nondiscrimination law by refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

But they have no plans to stop talking about their case, despite a recent “cease and desist” order from the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI).

The Kleins and their attorney believe the BOLI ruling is essentially a gag order. Aaron Klein plans to ignore it.

“I am not going to keep quiet,” Aaron Klein told CT this week. “She (Melissa) is not going to keep quiet.”

The cease and desist order is the latest twist in the conflict between the Kleins, former owners of “Sweet Cakes by Melissa,” and Laurel Bowman and Rachel Cryer, the couple who ordered the cake. It’s part of a larger BOLI ruling, which includes $135,000 in damages that the Kleins now owe to Bowman and Cryer. That payment is due Monday, July 13.

The complicated ruling has caused controversy and confusion. Here are 10 questions to help sort the case out.

How did we get here?

On January 17, 2013, Cryer and her mom visited “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” for a cake testing. Her partner, Bowman, was at home caring for the couple’s adopted infant children, both of whom have special needs.

When Aaron Klein asked who the groom would be, while filling out paperwork, Cryer said there was no groom—she and Bowman were getting married.

Klein apologized, and said the bakery didn’t do same-sex wedding cakes.

According to BOLI records, when Cryer’s mom pressed him for an explanation, he quoted from Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

Soon afterwards, Cryer and Bowman filed a complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice and later with BOLI.

After an investigation and a number of hearings, BOLI found that the Kleins had violated section 659A.403 of Oregon’s nondiscrimination law.

According to that law, “all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation, without any distinction, discrimination or restriction on account of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or age if the individual is 18 years of age or older.”

Is there a gag order in this case? Yes and no.

The BOLI order tells the Kleins to “cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published, circulated, issued or displayed, any communication, notice, advertisement or sign of any kind to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, services or privileges of a place of public accommodation will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination will be made against, any person on account of sexual orientation.”

Charlie Burr, spokesman for the BOLI, told CT that the Kleins are being told not to discriminate in the future.

But they “are free to voice their disagreement with the ruling or Oregon’s anti-discrimination laws in general,” he said in an email.

“That’s nice of them,” Anna Harmon, attorney for the Kleins, told CT in a phone interview. “But that’s not in the ruling.”

Harmon said the ruling quotes from public comments made by the Kleins and punishes them for those public comments. The cease and desist order is aimed at keeping her clients quiet, she told CT.

June
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A Clash of Church and Cake