NASHVILLE — Despite ongoing threats and rebuke, embattled Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein are resolute, continuing their pledge not to back down after being forced to pay a $136,927.07 judgment over their refusal to make a gay wedding cake back in 2013.
Upping the ante in their legal battle against Oregon state officials, the Kleins announced this week that they are now the clients of the First Liberty — formerly known as the Liberty Institute, a conservative law firm that frequently engages in First Amendment cases.
“Aaron and Melissa, for all they’ve been through, have really never been given a day in court,” First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys told TheBlaze during a sit-down interview in Nashville, Tennessee, this week. “We’re hoping to get them their day in court.”
Dys said that his hope is that the Kleins will be victorious in affirming American business owners’ rights to be “free to live their faith.”
After three years of the national media spotlight, a massive fine and threats, the Kleins told TheBlaze that they have no intention of giving up their battle.
Listen to the Kleins discuss the latest threat they received below:
The couple said that the latest cryptic message they received created some nervousness and unease.
“We still get threats. We just got a threat last week,” Melissa Klein said. “We still get emails every once in a while out of the blue that are just saying horrible things to us.”
She continued, explaining additional details about the most recent threat, “Somebody made a threat of basically, ‘Wait until 8:15. You’ll see what happens’ … it leaves a little feeling of, ‘What does that mean?”
Their kids, too, have been mildly impacted by the negative publicity.
“It’s definitely had its toll on them,” Aaron Klein said. “We’ve tried to protect them as much as possible.”
Despite the chaos that has unfolded since the cake refusal, Melissa Klein said that, if she could speak with the lesbian couple at the center of the dispute, she would likely give them a hug and “just tell them that I love them and don’t have any hard feelings toward them whatsoever.”
Some might wonder why the bakers haven’t simply thrown in the towel, but the Kleins said that their concerns stretch far beyond the scope of their own legal battle.
“We could totally just say we’re done and walk away and let it be,” Melissa Klein said. “We think about the next person in line that this could happen to. If we don’t fight this, we’re giving up on them.”
And that’s the goal, according to Dys: to ensure that business owners like the Kleins have the right to exercise their businesses in the way that they see fit.
“We’re dedicated to make sure that they get these right vindicated,” the attorney said. “The Constitution protects peoples’ beliefs. It doesn’t give a license to the government in Oregon to penalize people for exercising their beliefs.”
Hear the Kleins’ full story in a 2015 interview with The Church Boys:
Dys warned that the same punishment that befell the Kleins could be faced by anyone. At the moment, First Liberty Institute is considering its legal strategies moving forward, with Dys saying that he could see the case “very easily going to the Supreme Court.”
Watch the Kleins share some of the nasty messages they’ve received on social media:
As TheBlaze previously reported, the Kleins did pay out the $136,927.07 penalty — a necessity for them to file the appeal to their case. But rather than being paid out to the couple in question, that money is currently sitting in an escrow account pending the coming legal proceedings.
Problems for the Kleins began in 2013 after they declined to make a wedding cake for lesbian couple Rachel Cryer-Bowman and Laurel Bowman-Cryer based on the bakers’ religious views; the government subsequently awarded damages to the women.
The Kleins were originally ordered to pay the money to the couple on July 13, 2015, but repeatedly declined to do so until December.
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