Melissa and Aaron Klein are in a heap of trouble.
The couple recently revealed that they might have to pay as much as $150,000 in fines after the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries found them guilty of discriminating against a lesbian couple who wanted to order a wedding cake from them last year.
The Kleins own Sweet Cakes bakery, which, until last year, had a storefront in Gresham, Oregon. After the controversy over their refusal of service to Rachel Crier and her partner, Laurel, the couple chose to close their bakery rather than accommodate same-sex customers and moved their operation to a home bakery.
During a recent interview at the Values Voter Summit, the Kleins revealed that the fine from the state may bankrupt them, adding, "It's definitely impacted us pretty hard financially, and it's been a little stressful, but ... we have the Lord and so He's been keeping us strong."
But fear not! Their salvation may be on its way, and it's coming from the last person they'd ever have suspected would have their backs: a gay man.
That's right: Matt Stolhandske, a self-proclaimed "gay activist" and a member of the board of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, published an essay over the weekend in which he explained that he's started a fundraiser to take care of that nasty little $150,000 fine the Kleins could be facing.
Why would a gay man be looking to bail out two bigots who wouldn't sell him a cake if he were getting married? It boggles my mind too, so I'll just let Stolhandske explain it in his own words:
The Kleins say the $150,000 fee will bankrupt her family. I'm raising money to help offset that cost. I'll send whatever we raise along to the Klein family with a message of love and peace. I don't want them to suffer. But I am also pleading with them and other Christians to stop using the name of Jesus to explain to the LGBT community why we don't deserve access to the civil rights afforded to heterosexuals through the legal institution of marriage.
I hope the Kleins will accept this sign of good will. After all, they must see that our goals here are the same -- to live our lives as we see fit and be treated equally under the law.
Of course Stolhandske knows this ridiculous move will be met with criticism, so he added a preemptive disclaimer:
Already I can hear the shouts from progressive and gay friends.
"You're an apologist for homophobes," they tell me. "How can you reward this anti-gay behavior? Who next will they choose not to serve? African Americans? Single mothers? Muslims? We cannot support this." To them I say: this is what an olive branch looks like. I am not rewarding their behavior, but rather loving them in spite of it. It is time for these two communities, which both cite genuine love as our motivation, to put aside our prejudices and put down our pitchforks to clear the path for progress.
Well, guess what, Stolhandske? You are an apologist for homophobes. And this kind of anti-gay behavior shouldn't be rewarded. While I don't like to see anyone suffer, this wasn't something that just happened to the Kleins. They willfully disregarded the law -- they went so far as to close their store rather than offer their services to a gay couple -- and when you break the law, there are consequences.
Besides, what kind of a message does paying for these people's fine really offer? It'd be one thing if Aaron and Melissa had shown any sign of remorse for what they did or promised to change their behavior, but they haven't, and it doesn't appear that their minds (or hearts) will change anytime soon. Instead, they'd rather lose their business and put their family in jeopardy. And now Stolhandske wants us to co-sign their hate because of some misguided mumbo-jumbo about love and acceptance.
I'd like to humbly suggest that we not do that, because telling us that we are not worthy of buying a cake from them because of whom we love or fuck isn't loving, and it isn't accepting. So, instead, here are a slew of organizations that are actively working to help people -- people who really need our help -- and who aren't actively working to make sure we stay second-class citizens as part of their missions. Pick one (or your favorite organization) and send them a donation and then tell all your friends what you did and why you did it.