WASHINGTON, D.C. — Although they have many supporters both in the Northwest and nationally, Gresham bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein have also faced huge and strident opposition because of their faith-based refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony.
But when the Kleins made a brief appearance recently at the Values Voters Summit sponsored by the conservative Christian lobbying organization Family Research Council, the Kleins were clearly among friends. As reported by The Oregonian, the Kleins received not only multiple rounds of applause at the Washington, D.C. event, but also a standing ovation that brought Melissa Klein to tears.
“Thank you so much,” she said, choked up by the audience response. “I can’t tell you how it makes me feel.” She said all the difficulties they have faced have been worth it to honor God.
In a web commentary after the late September event, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins hailed the Kleins as “heroes” and described them as “the new faces of the religious liberty debate in America.”
“The couple … won the hearts of everyone watching with a powerful story of standing for their faith — even then it cost them their store, and maybe, their life savings,” Perkins wrote.
The Kleins’ remarks lasted for about nine minutes and were televised on C-SPAN 2. Facing charges of discrimination from Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, the Kleins reiterated their belief that they did not discriminate when they in 2013 refused to bake a cake for two women’s marriage ceremony. The Kleins also maintain the state is violating their religious, conscience and free-speech rights.
Aaron Klein said the couple faces up to $150,000 in penalties, but plan to appeal should a BOLI administrative law judge and commisioner eventually rule against them.
Although the Kleins early last year saw in surge in business from their supporters, it wasn’t enough to sustain their storefront operation near downtown Gresham and the bakery was moved into their home, where Melissa Klein now makes cakes on a limited basis.
The Kleins also have received death threats, and pro-homosexual forces threatened to boycott any florist, wedding planners or other vendors that did business with them.
At the D.C. event, Aaron Klein called for prayers for their attorneys as well as for Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who will ultimately rule on the case.