An Oregon official responsible for the legal woes of Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein because they refused to bake a "gay wedding" cake for two lesbians has lost his race for Secretary of State.
Oregon Republican Dennis Richardson defeated Brad Avakian for Secretary of State - the first GOP victory in a statewide race since 2002, according to CNN.
"The people of Oregon have spoken," Aaron Klein, co-owner of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, told The Daily Signal. "Hopefully with the guy that won, we'll see religious freedom start to grow in this state."
Avakian made headlines in 2014 after hitting the Kleins and their Gresham, Oregon, bakery with a $135,000 fine for refusing to make a homosexual-union celebration cake for two lesbians they had served many times before.
"We wanted to honor God with our business, and dedicated everything to him," Aaron told The Gospel Herald in February. "We believe in a Biblical definition of marriage, and we believe that we have the freedom of religion in this country."
In addition to the whopping fine - which the couple paid with the thousands of dollars that people contributed to their cause via crowdfunding sites like Samaritan's Purse - Avakian ordered the couple "to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published ... any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations ... will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation."
Eventually, the Kleins were forced to shut down their bakery. Fox News contributor Todd Starnes notes that the emotional trauma the family suffered was even worse: The Klein's young children received death threats and the store's social networking platforms were overrun by militant LGBT activists posting obscene and profane messages.
"It was definitely very shocking and definitely put a hardship on our family," Melissa told GH. "It hasn't been easy at all, I lost my business that I love. We both worked so hard to build up the business and to just have it gone like that has been devastating. It's been three years and I've still been really struggling with it. It hasn't been easy at all."
The Kleins are represented by First Liberty Institute, one of the nation's most prominent religious liberty law firms. They are appealing the fines levied by Avakian's office.
"This is something that is broader than just these two people," First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys told GH. "If it can happen to Aaron and Melissa at a bakery shop, it can happen to anybody at any level of employment at any business. The government should never be the ones coercing individuals into believing something that they don't believe. Or, for that matter, punishing them for believing it. All of America suffers when someone loses their religious liberty."