Melissa and Aaron Klein of Oregon, who were ordered by a state agency to pay two women $135,000 after they refused to take part in their same-sex wedding plans, may now face seizure of their assets. An administrative judge fined the couple after they declined to bake a cake for the lesbian couple, citing their religious objections. The fine was ordered by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which had accused the Klein couple of violating the Oregon Equality Act of 2007. According to reports, the agency is docketing the judgement and is exploring various options for collection.
Docketing the judgment would put it on the records of the court, making it the first step towards seizing the Kleins’ home, property, and other assets in place of their payment of the fine. When ordering the fine, the State of Oregon put a gag order on the Klein family, demanding that they “not to speak publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.” Bureau Commissioner Brad Avakian said at the time of the finding, “The goal is to rehabilitate…For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon.”
The Kleins filed a petition for review with the Washington Court of Appeals in July, after Oregon’s final order upheld the $135,000 fine. Attorneys for the family asked for a stay, which would have put payment of the fine to the Bureau on hold until a ruling could be reached on their appeals. However, the Bureau declined. Attorneys for the Bureau told the Klein family to obtain a bond or an irrevocable line of credit.
Objecting to both options, the Kleins’ declared that the former would equate to them handing the full fine amount over to Oregon, while the latter would mean a permanent loss of roughly $7,000 even if they prevail in the end.
Melissa Klein said "There’s legal reasons and there’s also kind of personal reasons. If a civil court or a circuit court judge had made this order, I would consider it legally binding. But when a bureaucracy does it and I didn’t get due process, I don’t call it legally binding.”
The Klein family has received little sympathy from the State, despite popular fundraising campaigns on their behalf. “It’s difficult to understand the Kleins’ unwillingness to pay the debt when they have, very publicly, raised nearly a half million dollars,” said Bureau spokesman Charlie Burr. He added that they do “not have the right to disregard a legally binding order.”
Aaron Klein disputed Burr’s estimate of the amount garnered in fundraising. “The number they’ve given out is bloated,” he said. “It is not what we have available, it is not what we have on hand, and there are so many variables to where that money has to go, what has to happen with that money, that we’re not touching that money for any purpose because I don’t know what the future holds.”
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.