PORTLAND, Ore. (Christian Examiner) -- When Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian completed his preliminary ruling Thursday against Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the now-closed bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, for refusing to provide a wedding cake to a lesbian couple, he ordered the Kleins to "cease and desist" from speaking publicly about their motivation for refusal of service – their Christian beliefs.
Avakian, an elected official, also ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the lesbian couple.
The action came after Brad said in an interview with Tony Perkins of The Family Research Council that the fight was not over and he and Melissa vowed "to stand strong."
The gag order against the Kleins may be at odds with the 5-4 majority ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges case. In addition to legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, the ruling also states:
"It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered"
The Kleins were first sued by the lesbian couple in 2013 for refusing to provide a wedding cake even though the refusal occurred when same-sex marriage was illegal in Oregon.
Attorneys for plaintiffs Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer argued that Brad's interview statement violated an Oregon law designed to stop people from communicating that a place of public accommodation (in this case, the Kleins' former bakery) would engage in discrimination.
Administrative Law Judge Alan McCullough, an employee of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries and an Avakian appointee, disregarded this argument proposing only the $135,000 fine in April. Avakian, who is responsible for the final ruling, overturned McCullough's decision adding the gag order to the fine.
In comments made to The Daily Signal, Anna Harmon, attorney for Brad and Melissa Klein, insinuated the gag order was part of a larger agenda.
"Brad Avakian has been outspoken throughout this case about his intent to 'rehabilitate' those whose believes do not conform to the state's ideas," she said.
"Now he has ruled that the Kleins' simple statement of personal resolve to be true to their faith is unlawful. This is a brazen attack on every American's right to freely speak and imposes government orthodoxy on those who do not agree with government sanctioned ideas," Harmon continued.
The Heritage Foundation's Senior Legal Fellow Hans von Spakovksy also decried the ruling. "It is exactly this kind of oppressive persecution by government officials that led the pilgrims to America. Commissioner Avakian's order that the Kleins stop speaking about this case is . . . a fundamental violation of their rights to free speech under the First Amendment," he said.
Avakian sees the issue as a matter of state law. "This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business's refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal," he wrote in his ruling.
Despite the gag order, Melissa wrote on Facebook of her determination to continue:
"We will NOT give up this fight, and will NOT be silenced. We stand for God's truth, God's word and freedom for ALL americans [sic]. We are here to obey God not man, and we will not conform to this world. If we were to lose everything it would be totally worth it for our Lord who gave his one and only son, Jesus, for us! God will win this fight!"