An observation on the $135,000 cake refusal

Has anyone noted that the “Ferguson syndrome” of ruinously escalating fines for petty violations [covered widely in the liberal press, and here previously], and Oregon’s ordering of a couple to pay $135,000 for not complying with a request to bake a cake (being covered at AP, widely in the conservative press, and here previously, with related], might actually amount in part to the same issue?

P.S. On Twitter, colleague Jason Kuznicki and I discuss the issue a little further. He writes: “Can’t say I agree. Punitive fines are really hidden taxes. The bakery issue is about punishing crimethink.” I respond: “But with sensible damages calculation (i.e. circa zero) the bakery action would lose much of its power to intimidate. Also, there’s debate: are oppressive local fines ‘just’ a revenue abuse (typically our side’s view) or a wider #NewJimCrow? Or to put it yet another way: once you allow oppressive fines, don’t be surprised if they are used to oppress.”


  • Why can’t it be both?


  • Well, the Oregon “fine” was supposedly to pay emotional damages to the ones who were refused the cake. It’s not like this is just some standard fine that everyone who discriminates has to pay.

    On the other hand, if they’re going to order that such a ridiculous amount be paid for damages that were purely psychological and sometimes contradictory (like loss of sleep and excessive sleep being listed by the same person), and without the administrative law judge actually getting testimony from a doctor to verify that all of these supposed symptoms were real and caused by the defendant, it’s likely that any future cases would result in similar damages being paid. This was SUPPOSED to be for damages, but it ended up having no basis in reality.

    Perhaps the problem here is that an administrative law judge shouldn’t be deciding this sort of thing… if we’re dealing with large amounts of money, it should be a jury that decides, not a bureaucracy.

  • What a happy way to start a marriage. The offending bakery will probably close it’s doors. They won’t be able to pay the judgement. The newlyweds can just take the Klein’s house and make it their own. Rachel and Laurel can drink a toast to the huge wedding gift provided by the state.

  • The bakers (1) refused to bake and deliver a cake, and (2) spoke about why.

    (1) If any damages, the cost of driving to another bakery to contract for a cake.
    (2) Free speech, however hurtful, is not punishible by any fine.

    This judgement is tyrannical. It sends the message to us all, don’t deviate from political correctness (your supreme politicians) to any degree, because we won’t hesitate to take everything you have. We have principles, and you only have money.

    Unlike Ferguson, the fine is not going to the state (the police department). The plaintiffs are just the lucky bystanders. I assume 1/3 of the award is going to the SJW attorneys and will support other such lawsuits.

  • “Equality” destroys liberty, Edition 10,233,435 (and counting).

    Then there’s the issue of how “compensatory” damages have come to lavishly reward extreme emotional vulnerability — or, at least, claims thereof. The more infantile your emotional control and disposition, the greater your “damages.” Or, I was denied a cake and I CAN”T GET OVER IT!

    One of these objecting bakers should put up a sign that says “gay weddings serviced reluctantly and under state compulsion.” Want to bet that the tolerant left would make this illegal, too?

  • “But with sensible damages calculation (i.e. circa zero) the bakery action would lose much of its power to intimidate.” Not true – as Mark Steyn said, the process is the punishment. Just proving your case in court is a long exhausting process if they are allowed to file the case in the first place.

  • […] publicized Oregon cake ruling, in which a Gresham, Oregon couple was ordered to pay $135,000 in emotional-distress damages for having refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony. Aside from the […]

  • […] Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, recently in the news for ordering Melissa and Aaron Klein to pay $135,000 for not wanting to make cake for a commitment […]