In April, an administrative judge with the Oregon Department of Labor ordered Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of the now shuttered bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, to pay a fine of $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple's wedding. While there's a case the couple violated the state's public accommodation laws, there's little doubt that the fine was excessive and the reasoning for it specious. (For more on the plight of Kleins, see THE WEEKLY STANDARD editorial, "Bake Me a Cake -- or Else.")
Despite losing their business and facing a hefty fine they can't afford, the Kleins continue to stand by their Christian convictions and fight the ruling. However, the state just finalized the ruling against the Kleins and added a new wrinkle. According to the state, the Kleins are now forbidden from talking about the ruling.* Here's the relevant portion of the decision:
Here's the paragraph where commissioner @BradAvakian ordered cease & desist against Christian #sweetcakes owners: pic.twitter.com/wJ2z4UaSpe— Kelsey Harkness (@kelseyjharkness) July 3, 2015
The final ruling was issued by Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who is an elected official, not a judge. Avakian is rumored to be running for Secretary of State next year.
*I have been accused as describing the effect of the gag order too broadly. But it seems to me there is no way that these people can both continue as bakers and express their beliefs or explain how their beliefs affect their behavior without violating this order. And if you think that straining to interpret such generic sentiments as a sign saying "we will stand strong" on the door of your business to be incitement for prior restraint -- as Avakian did in his ruling -- we're on a tobbogan ride down the slippery slope toward state-sponsored censorship.
UPDATE: The Heritage Foundation's Hans Von Spakovsky and Katrina Trinko explain the ruling in more detail and conclude, "The Kleins are, yes, 'gagged' legally from saying much more, if anything, about their case. Because what they said about their case before—even though they didn’t talk about future decisions about gay couples and wedding cakes—apparently counts as 'a clear intent to discriminate in the future.'”