In a discrimination case stemming from an incident in 2013, the Oregon Court of Appeals has sided with the state, upholding the penalty against bigoted bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein.
The owners of the now-closed Sweet Cakes By Melissa bakery in Gresham, Oregon (suburb of Portland) refused to make a wedding cake for Rachel Bowman-Cryer. While Bowman-Cryer—who was accompanied by her mother during the bakery visit—attempted to order a cake, Aaron Klein asked for the wedding date and names of the bride and groom. When informed there was no groom, Klein stated Sweet Cakes By Melissa did not make same-sex wedding cakes.
The mother and daughter left the shop, but Rachel’s mom re-entered to reason with Klein. She told the baker she once held similar beliefs on marriage, but when she had two gay children “truth had changed.”
In response, Klein quoted Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”
But what would Jesus do?
What the state of Oregon did was fine the bakers $135,000 in emotional distress damages to Rachel and her spouse Laurel Bowman-Cryer for violating a 2007 Oregon law protecting “the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations.”
Although the law exempts religious organizations, it “does not allow private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.”
Arguments for a similar case out of Colorado were heard in the U.S. Supreme Court last week. Baker Jack Phillips also refused to create a cake for a same-sex couple. In the ensuing lawsuits, Phillips argued his First Amendment rights to artistic freedom were violated.
The closed-minded Kleins challenged the fine brought by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries and Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, arguing the state violated their “rights as artists to free speech, their rights to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to a due process.”
Legal organization First Liberty Institute represented the Kleins, and of course disagreed with the appellate court’s decision on Thursday, saying it denies the bakers’ Constitutional rights of religious liberty and free speech. First Liberty Institute president Kelly Shackelford stated, “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs.”
Ironically, sentiments in Shackelford’s public statement are somehow echoed in Labor Commissioner Avakian’s reaction to the ruling and the 62-page opinion of the court.
“Today’s ruling sends a strong signal that Oregon remains open to all.”
The couple at the center of this controversy, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, released a triumphant statement through their attorney.
“It does not matter how you were born or who you love. All of us are equal under the law and should be treated equally. Oregon will not allow a ‘Straight Couples Only’ sign to be hung in bakeries or other stores.”