PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - The owners of a Portland-area bakery who refused on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple have paid about $144,000 in damages despite their ongoing appeal of the discrimination case, a state official said on Tuesday.
The damages were ordered after Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery, refused to bake a cake in 2013 when Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer were planning their nuptials.
Aaron Klein handed the state a check for nearly $137,000 on Monday, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries spokesman Charlie Burr said. The payment was first reported by the Oregonian newspaper late on Monday.
The money was added to $7,000 received from the Kleins earlier this month through private collection efforts spearheaded by the state’s Department of Justice, Burr told Reuters.
After the owners’ refusal to bake the cake, the state bureau found they had violated anti-discrimination laws because their shop is not a registered religious institution. It ordered them to pay the Bowman-Cryers $135,000 in damages.
The Kleins appealed the ruling and had refused to pay the damages, citing financial hardship.
Burr said the shop owners subsequently raised about $500,000 from supporters via an online crowdfunding effort.
The damages had been accruing interest since the damages were ordered due in July. “We were in touch with their attorneys in giving precise amounts in what they needed to pay to cease collection efforts,” Burr said.
The Kleins’ lawyer, Tyler Smith, said the bakery owners are “devoted to honoring God in every aspect of their lives, including how they conduct themselves in this litigation.”
In order to pursue their appeal, he said in an emailed statement, Oregon law requires that the Kleins either pay the damages or obtain a bond for the imposed amount.
The least expensive option to stay in compliance with the law was to pay the funds that the labor bureau will hold in a separate account “until they prevail in their court appeal,” Smith said.
Burr said the state will hold the damages until all appeals are settled. The case will go to the Oregon Court of Appeals next year and could ultimately go to the state’s Supreme Court.
The Bowman-Cryers were married in 2014 after a federal judge struck down Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban.
The bakery case is one of many disputes nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Reporting by Shelby Sebens; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Dan Grebler