Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Oregon, received a partial victory Jan. 27 from the Oregon Court of Appeals.
In 2013, a lesbian woman had approached the Kleins about creating a custom cake for her same-sex wedding. They respectfully declined the request, explaining that they could not in good conscience create the cake due to their Biblical beliefs that marriage is to be between one man and one woman.
In response, the woman filed a complaint with the state of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), prompting an investigation. BOLI then filed formal charges against the Kleins, claiming the couple had discriminated against the woman because of her sexual orientation.
Along with the charges, BOLI levied fines against the Kleins totaling $135,000, which eventually drove the bakery out of business.
After nearly a decade, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that BOLI had acted with hostility against the Kleins and violated the First Amendment’s “requirement of strict neutrality toward religion” in determining the damages the bakers must pay.
But in a baffling move, the court said the Kleins did indeed violate Oregon’s antidiscrimination laws and ordered the case to be sent back to BOLI to determine correct damages.
“Oregon is trying to have its cake and eat it, too,” said Stephanie Taub, senior counsel for First Liberty, the religious liberty law firm representing the Kleins. “The court admits the state agency that acted as both prosecutor and judge in this case was biased against the Kleins’ faith. Yet, despite this anti-Christian bias that infected the whole case, the court is sending the case back to the very same agency for a do-over. Today’s opinion should have been the end of this 10-year-long saga. It’s time for the state of Oregon’s hostility toward Aaron and Melissa to end.”
First Liberty lawyers intend to appeal the ruling to the Oregon Supreme Court and, if necessary, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Photo: Courtesy of First Liberty