Oregon Appellate Court Should Uphold Their Ruling Against Anti-LGBTQ Bakery (Again)

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September 20, 2019

Lambda Legal has urged the Oregon Court of Appeals once again to affirm its 2017 opinion upholding a 2015 ruling by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) that the owners of a Portland-area bakery violated the state’s nondiscrimination statutes when they refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because doing so violated the owners’ religious beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Court of Appeals’ 2017 ruling this past June and asked that court to reconsider its decision in light of the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in favor of a Colorado baker in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

“Two years ago, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a thorough and thoughtful decision that recognized our precious freedoms of religion and speech are not licenses to ostracize LGBTQ people as second-class pariahs,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel and Director of Law and Policy at Lambda Legal.

“Nothing has changed, except perhaps that those who seek to use their constitutional rights to harm others by exempting themselves from civil rights laws may feel emboldened.

“Nearly seven years ago, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer decided to get married in order to provide greater stability for their two special-needs children. But what began with a sense of excitement and celebration turned into a humiliating ordeal when the proprietors of Sweetcakes by Melissa, Aaron and Melissa Klein, refused to serve them, citing Leviticus and calling same-sex relationships an ‘abomination,’” Pizer said.

“This cruel rejection hit Rachel and Laurel like a punch to the stomach, and unsurprisingly caused them to fear similar rejections in other situations – from florists and caterers to venue rentals.

“Rachel and Laurel just wanted to order a wedding cake, but the Kleins’ callous rejection shattered the innocence and joy of their wedding planning and to this day affects their daily interactions, their self-esteem and their sense of security. This court recognized the extent of this harm two years ago, and we urge the court to do so again.”

Laurel and Rachel had been together 10 years and were adoptive parents to two special needs children when they decided to get married.

In planning for the wedding, Rachel went with her mother to a wedding cake tasting having been invited by Melissa Klein of Sweetcakes by Melissa in the Portland suburb of Gresham, which she co-owns with her husband, Aaron Klein. It was the same bakery business where, two years earlier, Rachel and Laurel purchased a cake for Rachel’s mother’s sixth wedding. Rachel had scheduled the tasting with Melissa.

However, when they arrived, they were met by Aaron, who, when he learned that the wedding was for a lesbian couple, said, “We don’t do same-sex weddings.” He then called same-sex relationships an “abomination,” citing Bible verses.

BOLI determined that the Kleins had violated the Oregon Public Accommodations Law and, because their conduct caused serious emotional harm to Rachel and Laurel, assessed damages of $135,000 against the Kleins.

The Kleins appealed, and the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the Bureau of Labor and Industries’ determination in December 2017.

The Kleins, represented by the anti-LGBTQ legal organization First Liberty Institute of Plano, Texas, then petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for review, and, after the Oregon Supreme Court denied review, sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case is Klein dba Sweetcakes by Melissa v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Lambda Legal included the Bowman-Cryers’ story in the friend-of-the-court brief it submitted in 2017 to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of itself and 12 other organizations in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.