GRESHAM, Ore. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Oregon bakers are filing a brief with the Oregon Court of Appeals claiming a lower court decision against them was biased and violates their constitutional rights.
In January 2013, Rachel Bowman, accompanied by her mother, went to Sweet Cakes Bakery, owned by Aaron and Melissa Klein, to order a cake for for her "commitment ceremony" to Laurel Cryer. At the time so-called same-sex marriage was not legal in Oregon.
Aaron Klein refused service to them when he found out there would be "two brides." Bowman and her mother departed in anger. Cryer claimed she thought she was leaving a complaint with the Better Business Bureau but it turned out to be the Oregon Department of Justice.
The complaint reached Aaron and Melissa Klein, who publicized the complaint on Facebook — and a media frenzy ensued. The Kleins' business went bankrupt, and Bowman and Cryer claimed to get death threats.
Two years later, in July 2015, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) ruled the Kleins discriminated against Bowman and Cryer. Administrative Law Judge Alan McCullough handed out fines totaling $135,000 for mental, physical and emotional damage. A cease and desist order was also imposed on the Kleins, forbidding them to speak publicly about why they refused Bowman and Cryer's business.
Bowman and Cryer claimed they "felt mentally raped," suffered "mental distress," were "stunned, less talkative," had a "dislike of going to work" and suffered from "excessive sleep" as a result of the Kleins' refusing their business.
The Daily Signal recovered emails showing the Kleins may have been denied due process. They show the connection between BOLI Commissioner Brad Avakian, who determined the ruling and the fines against the Kleins. Avakian is also Judge McCullough's boss, and according to Oregon state law he is the one who wields power.
Avakian's bias in favor of the gay agenda is well documented, openly associating with the pro-LGBT group Basic Rights Oregon. He purchased hundreds of dollars in tickets as a fundraiser for the group and met with representatives several times before he handed down his decision against the Kleins.
The Kleins are basing their appeal on the fact that before the case was investigated, Avakian publicly said both on Facebook and in an interview that he thought the Kleins "discriminated" against Bowman and Cryer. Such public statements about a pending case call into serious question Avakian's impartiality and ability to judge fairly.
The Kleins also maintain Bowman and Cryer's claims of feeling "mentally raped" and of mental distress were never investigated by BOLI. No professionals were brought in to evaluate the merit of Bowman and Cryer's claims of mental, physical and emotional damage.
On top of all that, the gag order Avakian imposed on them through Judge McCullough legally prohibits them from speaking publicly about why they refused to do business with Bowman and Cryer — a potential infringement of their First Amendment right to free speech.
Their lawyer, Ken Kluckowski, commented, "There are aspects of their beliefs and of this case, including aspects of their religious beliefs about marriage, that if they were to share these things publicly, that the government could punish them, saying that it amounts to the equivalent of advertising their intention to continue engaging in illegal discrimination."
He is not ruling out taking the case to the Supreme Court if the appeals court doesn't overturn the decision.