Oregon Appeals Court Just Issued Bombshell Ruling In Gay Couple-Bakery Case

A lesbian couple awarded $135,000 in damages after a bakery refused to make their wedding cake because of the owner’s Christian religious beliefs concerning gays will finally get their money.

The Oregon Court of Appeals today upheld the fine awarded to Rachel and Laurel Bowan-Cryer by a Labor Commissioner which received national media attention after they filed a complaint against the Sweetcakes by Melissa Bakery in Greshman, Oregon in 2013, according to Oregon Live. 

The bakery owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, had previously made the same raspberry fantasy cake for one of the women’s mother’s sixth wedding anniversary but refused to bake their wedding cake citing their Christian beliefs.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries agreed that they had been refused service because of their sexual orientation and fined the bakery $135,000 for the lesbian couples emotional and mental distress,  which the Klein’s paid but has been held in escrow pending today’s appeal ruling. 

Supporters of the bakery donated more than $500,000 to the Kleins, and their defense in the Appeals Court was provided by a Christian group, the First Liberty Institute. The Kleins claimed they should have a religious exemption from the Oregon Equality Act, which is an anti-discrimination law.

The Klein’s also argued the labor commissioners ruling violated their free expression as artists, their right to due process and said that the fine was excessive.

This past March, the Kleins finally had to close the bakery.

The Kleins have since been selling their cakes online which are shipped in mason jars, including the raspberry fantasy cake.

In its ruling, the three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled that the Labor Commissioner was correct when he said the Klein’s refused to bake the cake because the couple was gay. The justices also disagreed that the ruling violated state and federal free speech protections. 

Appeals Court Judge Chris Garret wrote that the Labor Commissioners order did not violate the Klein’s right of free speech because it just “requires their compliance with neutral laws,” and said the Kleins “made no showing that the state targeted them for enforcement because of their religious beliefs.”

The Klein’s told Oregon Live they hope to open another physical bakery in the future but it will not be in Oregon.

Oregon has been a leader in passing laws that uphold the civil rights of all people, no matter their race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. It should be a role model for the entire nation but the fact is there is no similar protection in many states even now, and under the regressive Trump administration, there are ever fewer federal protections.

The Supreme Court has upheld the right of couples to marry no matter their sex and the law in Oregon is the kind of rule that should have followed nationwide.

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.