Online Fundraiser For Oregon Bakery Removed After Gay Rights Activists Complain

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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An effort to raise money online for an Oregon bakery which may have to pay $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple was shut down on Saturday after gay rights activists complained to the fundraising company, Go Fund Me.

Approximately $109,000 had been raised on behalf of “Sweet Cakes by Melissa,” a Christian-themed bakery owned by Aaron and Melissa Klein in Gresham, Ore.

The campaign was set up Friday after the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries issued a preliminary order that the Kleins should have to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple who filed a discrimination complaint against the bakery in Aug. 2013.

Aaron Klein told the couple in Jan. 2013 that he did not want to bake the cake because he does not agree with gay marriage. Oregon’s labor bureau sided with the lesbian couple, ruling in February that the Kleins violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The bureau’s $135,000 proposed penalty is not final. It can be lowered, raised, or left as is.

The online fundraiser for the Kleins was intended to help alleviate any financial judgement they may face. But it was removed after activists complained.

According to the Washington Times, Lisa Watson, the owner of a company called Cupcake Jones, organized the effort to get the fundraiser removed.

A spokeswoman for Go Fund Me said that the fundraising campaign violates the company’s terms of service.

According to those terms, “Campaigns in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes, including violent, hateful, or sexual acts” are prohibited.

“The campaign entitled “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” involves formal charges,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement. “As such, our team has determined that it was in violation of GoFundMe’s Terms & Conditions.”

According to the Times, the $109,000 raised on behalf of the Kleins thus far will be made available for withdrawal.

The Go Fund Me spokeswoman distinguished the Kleins’ case with another one involving Memories Pizza in Indiana.

That small pizza restaurant raised over $830,000 on Go Fund Me earlier this month after its owner gave an interview stating that she would not cater a gay wedding. The owner was asked about whether it would serve gays after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. Critics of the law say that it legalizes discrimination against gays. The Memories Pizza owners said they received death threats after their comments on the issue and had to temporarily shut down their shop.

The Go Fund Me spokeswoman said that since no formal charges were involved in that particular fundraiser, the campaign was not removed from the website.

But the spokeswoman did not respond to a follow-up question about another fundraising campaign involving Jeremy Meeks, the California man dubbed the “Hot Convict” whose mugshot went viral last year. The apparent double-standard was pointed out by a number of Twitter users. That campaign, set up by Meeks’ mother, has raised over $6,000.

Meeks was arrested in June 2014 on felony weapons charges and sentenced to two years in prison in February.

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