A Christian couple in Oregon handed over a check amounting to nearly $137,000 to the U.S. state in payment for "damages" they allegedly incurred following the filing of a discrimination suit against them by a lesbian couple.
Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of the bakery Sweetcakes by Melissa, made the payment even after the state garnished their bank account and took all their savings, including money for church tithe.
Last July, the Kleins were ordered by Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) to pay the fine to couple Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, who filed a complaint after the bakery refused to make a wedding cake for them.
Citing their religious beliefs, the couple refused to pay the fine pending appeal.
Melissa said weeks before Christmas, she found out that their money was gone from her bank account, Fox News reported.
"It was like my breath was taken away. I panicked. Everything was gone," she said. "We had three accounts. I have one account that's labeled, 'God's money' – our tithing. They just took it."
The report said the BOLI took all cash from her checking and savings accounts and from a special account for the church tithe.
The BOLI awarded the lesbian couple damages for emotional and mental suffering." The state took nearly $7,000 from the family's account.
But with a 9 percent interest penalty, the Kleins chose to pay the fine and handed over $136,927.07 in check to the state. The money was from the more than $500,000 collected in online donations raised for the Kleins.
Kleins' lawyer Tyler Smith said they would be appealing the case even if this goes all the way to the Supreme Court.
"The least expensive option to stay in compliance with the law was to pay the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries funds that will be kept in a separate account until they prevail in their court appeal," Smith said.
The Kleins asked the BOLI to defer the collection of the fine, but their request was denied.
"Aaron and Melissa will continue to work to ensure that every American has the First Amendment right to express their faith-based beliefs, and to conduct their daily affairs according to their conscience," Smith said.
The Bowman-Cryers asked the bakery in 2013 to make a wedding cake but Aaron said they could not do it because of their religious beliefs. The couple sued the Kleins and won.
The BOLI found the Kleins violated Oregon's Equality Act of 2007 by discriminating against the lesbian couple.
"Within Oregon's public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, has the freedom to fully participate in society. The ability to enter public places, to shop and dine, to move about unfettered by bigotry," the BOLI decision read.