An Oregon Christian couple have paid the state-ordered $135,000 in damages to a lesbian couple for refusing to bake a wedding cake for their same-sex ceremony earlier this year.
The Oregonian reported on Monday that Aaron Klein, the former co-owner of the now defunct Sweet Cakes by Melissa, handed over a check of $136,927.07 to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries' Portland office for the damages and accrued interest.
Aaron and Melissa Klein had initially said that they will not be paying the money to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, the lesbian couple they refused to bake a cake for in 2013. The Kleins have explained that their objection to participating in same-sex weddings stems from their religious belief that traditional marriage is defined as a union between one man and one woman.
The story stirred great debate in the U.S. over religious freedom issues, and the couple received significant support online — a fundraising campaign raised at least $515,000 as of late September for their cause.
The Christian couple also received support from notable conservative leaders, including the Rev. Franklin Graham.
"Give me a break. In my opinion, this couple should pay the Kleins $135,000 for all they've been through," Graham said in a Facebook message in July.
"Even more outrageous is that Avakian has also now ordered the Kleins to 'cease and desist' from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs. This is an outright attack on their #freedomofspeech," he added.
Rachel Bowman-Cryer, who visited the bakery shop with her mother in the 2013 incident when they were told they will not get a cake, explained her experience in an article for The Huffington Post: "I was just humiliated that this happened in front of my mom, whom I spent all these years trying to convince that we deserved equal accommodation, and we deserve rights, and we deserve to be able to get married. I was crying and she was trying to console me and say, 'Don't worry, we will find somebody that will make you a beautiful cake.'"
Aaron Klein revealed back in July that following the closure of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, he picked up a job as a garbage collector to help make ends meet.
The recent payment, however, does not mean that the Kleins have abandoned their appeal of the order, said attorney Tyler Smith. The lawyer revealed that his clients made the decision to pay the money now rather than to incur additional interest charges, but said that the Oregon Court of Appeals will be hearing arguments over the case in 2016.
Smith said that the bureau "was attempting to charge interest rates of 9 percent, equating to $35 a day, and seeking to garnish any assets of the Kleins so they couldn't earn interest on the money that had been donated to them."
"The prudent thing to do, given the generosity of people who have contributed funds, was to take care of it and continue the fight," he added, according to The Oregonian.