It looks like a couple of bakers in Oregon are angling to steal the spotlight from Kim Davis.
The former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa are trying to convince the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) that they’re simply too poor to pay a $135,000 fine for discriminating against a same-sex couple. The Willamette Week reports that the couple, Melissa and Aaron Klein, have refused to pay up for three months now, even though they’ve raised over $500,000 for expenses via a crowdfunding campaign.
According to emails published by the Week, BOLI has repeatedly offered to find a way the Kleins may satisfy the debt without paying cash. In early August, BOLI prosecutor Jenn Gaddis informed the couple’s attorneys that they would “stay collection” of the damages – provided the Kleins furnished them with a bond or irrevocable letter of credit.
At first, the Kleins agreed. But the email chain between Gaddis and Herbert Grey, an attorney for the couple, shows that consensus didn’t last.
On Sept. 8, Grey informed Gaddis that the couple did not have a bond or letter of credit and had “no further plans to obtain one.” It’s hard to read this anything other than an outright refusal to comply with any of the terms set forth by BOLI.
Gaddis wasn’t amused. “It is unfortunate that they will not seek the bond or irrevocable letter of credit, that you had initially stated they were interested in seeking, when they have clearly raised close to $500,000 with which to pay the damage award,” she wrote to Grey. He did not respond.
Gaddis’ claim appears accurate. The Kleins opened a “Continue To Give” account in order to raise the funds for the fine.
From the description on their page: “If they are forced to pay the damages to the lesbian couple they will be in much worse shape than they are now. They are pioneers in standing strong for the Lord and have been very courageous and steadfast throughout this whole ordeal.”
So far they’ve raised 271 percent more than their original goal of $150,000. As of yesterday, supporters could still donate to the page; since it remains active, more donations are likely to come. The Advocate also reported in June that the Kleins raised $109,000 via a GoFundMe account before it was shut down for violating the site’s terms of service. (They got to keep the money.)
In statements to Reuters, Grey claimed that the couple raised less than the reported amounts, though he refused to provide an alternative figure. He also claimed that the Kleins weren’t legally obligated to pay the fee since the case was on appeal.
But that isn’t accurate. Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian unequivocally ordered them to pay the fine in July. Their decision to appeal his ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals does not alter the fact they are still obligated to pay.
The Kleins have become infamous for emotional appearances at events like last week’s Values Voter Summit, where for the second year in a row they portrayed themselves as victims of religious persecution. But it’s clear now that BOLI attempted to work with the couple. They simply refused to cooperate.
This is not persecution. This is what happens when people believe the Religious Right’s martyrdom myth.
State officials are now seeking the right to put a lien on the couple’s property. Of course, that could be just what they want. Just as Davis went to jail for a few days to cement her martyrdom, the Kleins may believe that the sight of them losing control over their home will clinch their status as the latest stars in the Religious Right’s pantheon of victims of “religious persecution.”
The Kleins have been given several opportunities to resolve this matter. They have the means to do so. They have chosen not to. For whatever happens to them from now on, they will have no one to blame but themselves.