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Oregon Appeals Court Upholds Discrimination Ruling Against Antigay Bakers

Melissa and Aaron Klein

The Oregon Court of Appeals Thursday upheld a ruling that a bakery violated the state’s antidiscrimination law by refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

The court affirmed the Oregon Bureau of Labor’s ruling that Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, located in Gresham, illegally discriminated against the couple and are liable for a $135,000 fine, reports The Register-Guard of Eugene.

“The Kleins seek an exemption based on their sincere religious opposition to same-sex marriage,” Judge Chris Garrett wrote in the opinion, according to the newspaper. “But those with sincere religious objections to marriage between people of different races, ethnicities, or faiths could just as readily demand the same exemption.”

The Kleins had cited their Christian beliefs in refusing to provide a cake for the 2013 wedding of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer. In the Bureau of Labor’s ruling, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian wrote that the Kleins’ action “was more than the denial of the product. ... It was the epitome of being told there are places you cannot go, things you cannot do … or be.” The bureau made its finding of discrimination in 2014 and set the fine in 2015. The Kleins filed their appeal last year.

The Kleins, who have now closed their business, resisted paying the fine for several months, despite raising nearly half a million dollars through a crowdfunding campaign, but they finally delivered the money, plus interest, at the end of 2015. The money has been held in escrow during the appeal process and will continue to be, as the Kleins may appeal further, to the Oregon Supreme Court, The Register-Guard reports. They are considering this option, their attorneys said.

They are represented by the right-wing First Liberty Institute, whose president, Kelly Shackelford, issued this statement: “Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided that Aaron and Melissa Klein are not entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free speech. In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs.”

The Bownan-Cryers released a statement praising the decision. “In Oregon, businesses that are open to the public are open to all,” they said. “With this ruling, the Court of Appeals has upheld the long-standing idea that discrimination has no place in America.”a

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this month in a similar case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission found that Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips violated Colorado antidiscrimination law by refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, and state courts upheld the ruling. Phillips contended that providing goods for a same-sex wedding went against his religious beliefs and that forcing him to do so infringed upon his constitutional rights to religious and artistic freedom. The high court is expected to issue its decision in the summer.

Tags: Religion, Oregon, Law

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