Even if one believes that the refusal of Sweet Cakes to make a wedding cake for a gay couple was a dubious exercise of religion as well as a mean and petty one, the astounding punishment levied on the now defunct bakery’s owners must be condemned as an abuse of power.
Having already lost their bakery business due to mob action online by Gay Marriage Advocate Furies, Aaron and Melissa Klein were walloped by former Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian with a $135,000 judgment for “emotional damages” to the couple. He also issued a gag order on the ex-bakers that forbids the Kleins from explaining to potential customers of Sweet Cakes their anti- same-sex wedding policies.
UPDATE (7/9): This is, I have learned, an overly simplistic description. Ken at Popehat explains what’s really going on as far as the “gagging” goes.
Of course—I guess I can’t really say “of course” if such a travesty can occur—no state can order anyone not to talk about anything in such a situation. The unconstitutional gag order is essentially moot, since to violate it the Kleins would have to still own a bakery and they do not, but it still acts to intimidate others and chill freedom of speech. It must be challenged and overturned. The fine is also unconscionable, and effectively makes villains out of the originally aggrieved couple if they don’t immediately agree to waive it. There is a duty in law to mitigate damages: the couple could and did minimize the harm of their cake request’s rejection by obtaining a wedding cake elsewhere. The Kleins didn’t stop them from getting married, and any harm that came to them from the publicity of their humiliation by the bakery was exacerbated by the couple’s own actions, not the Kleins’. $135,000? That’s beyond punitive. That’s vengeance.
The damages are allegedly supposed to compensate the gay couple for the various maladies they suffered as a result of being rejected. The rejection was unethical—I have strong doubts about whether it was illegal—but the couple’s complaints make the word “stretch” look like a stretch. Among them:
- “Felt mentally raped, dirty and shameful”
- “Dislike of going to work”
- “Pale and sick at home after work”
- “Felt stupid”
- “Loss of sleep”
- “Excessive sleep”
I hate it when excessive sleep combines with loss of sleep to result in … what, exactly? Normalcy?
I had not seen the list before, and it is asinine. What the hell is “mental rape”? Since when is “doubt” a compensatable malady? A fair and rational commissioner would take one look at such a list and conclude that this was a kitchen sink list devised in a brain-storming session and designed to cash in.
Maybe I’m Pollyanna, I have to believe that there exists somewhere in Oregon an openly gay and intensely ethical lawyer—even better, a same-sex married pair of lawyers, like in “Adam’s Rib”!— who like John Adams in the Boston Massacre case realizes that the system’s treatment of parties that he or she could consider foes is unjust and a threat to citizens everywhere. Such a lawyer will recognize that the Kleins’ punishment represents a threat to all citizens, and is an illegal, unethical and unconscionable abuse of power. Imagine the benefits to all involved—the Kleins, society, and the lawyer— if that gay lawyer took on the Kleins’ cause pro bono, and won.
Such a heroic, principled and compassionate act might remind the Kleins, as well as others of their mindset, that gay people can be admirable human beings, and that treating them otherwise is neither ethical nor Christian, whatever one thinks one has a right to do. It might even cause gay social justice warriors cheering every official punch to the Kleins’ metaphorical solar plexus to understand that it cripples the cause of tolerance, acceptance and diversity for them to respond to ignorance with cruelty and hate.
Come on, John! I know you’re out there. Get to work. Your country needs you.
Spark and Facts: Hot Air