Oregon Court of Appeals Rules, Again, Against Anti-LGBT Portland-Area Bakery

Find Your State

Know the laws in your state that protect LGBT people and people living with HIV.
“The court was right five years ago and is still right today. The Kleins’ faith does not give them a pass to ignore Oregon’s Public Accommodation Law.”
January 26, 2022

The Oregon Court of Appeals today upheld a 2015 ruling by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) that the owners of Gresham-based Sweetcakes By Melissa violated the state’s nondiscrimination statutes when they refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple based on their religious freedom. The court had initially affirmed the BOLI ruling, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that ruling in June 2019 and directed the Oregon appeals 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.

“In 2017, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a thorough and thoughtful decision explaining that our precious freedoms of religion and speech are not licenses for businesses to ostracize LGBT people. Oregon law guarantees equality, not being sent elsewhere as second-class pariahs,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal. “The court was right five years ago and is still right today. The Kleins’ faith does not give them a pass to ignore Oregon’s Public Accommodation Law.” 

“It’s been nine years since we asked for a cake, a simple cake that we were going to decorate ourselves,” Rachel Bowman-Cryer said. “We would never have set foot in Sweetcakes had we known the humiliation Aaron Klein would subject us to, simply because of who we are. But, we also know that no one else should ever be treated that way, so we continue to stand up for what is right, even though the process has taken years and been extremely stressful. Our daughters deserve no less from us.” 

Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer 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 had 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 they confirmed that the wedding was for a lesbian couple, said, “We don’t do same-sex weddings.” He then explained the Kleins’ refusal to serve the Bowman-Cryers by citing Leviticus from the Old Testament.  

Seven years ago, BOLI determined based on these undisputed facts that the Kleins had violated the Oregon Public Accommodations Law. BOLI also determined the Kleins’ conduct caused serious emotional harm to Rachel and Laurel and assessed damages of $135,000 against the Kleins. In today’s ruling, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the damages ruling and sent the case back to BOLI for further consideration of the impact of certain factual disputes about the discussion of Leviticus.  

The case is Klein dba Sweetcakes by Melissa v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Read today’s ruling here:

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. Read that brief here:

Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer C. Pizer is representing Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer with Paul Thompson of LTL PDX LLC of Portland, Oregon. The Kleins are represented by the anti-LGBTQ legal organization First Liberty Institute of Plano, Texas.



Contact Info

Tom Warnke; (c): 213-841-4503; Email