The Daily Signal has exclusively learned that the government agency responsible for enforcing Oregon’s anti-discrimination law appears to be working closely with a powerful gay rights advocacy group in its case against Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
Communications between the agency, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, and the LGBT organization, Basic Rights Oregon, raise questions about potential bias in the state’s decision to charge the Kleins with discrimination for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
In April, a judge for the agency recommended the Kleins be fined $135,000.
Communications obtained through a public records request show employees of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries—which pursued the case against the Kleins—participating in phone calls, texting, and attending meetings with Basic Rights Oregon, the largest LGBT advocacy group in the state.
“That’s a clear conflict of interest,” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal.
Communications between Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian and Basic Rights Oregon, which has actively spoken out against the Kleins, raise questions about whether the commissioner and other agency employees were using the case to benefit a political agenda, and in the process, stripping the Kleins of their right to a fair trial.
According to emails, Avakian met with Basic Rights Oregon on multiple occasions.
One of those meetings was planned for May 1, 2014, shortly before a federal court struck down Oregon’s Defense of Marriage Act.