PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - An appellate court has upheld a penalty against Gresham bakery owners who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding almost five years ago.
The owners of the Gresham bakery - Aaron and Melissa Klein - argued that state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian violated state and federal laws by forcing them to pay emotional-distress damages of $135,000 to the lesbian couple.
Their lawyers said Avakian and the state Bureau of Labor and Industries violated the Kleins' rights as artists to free speech, their rights to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to a due process.
But the Oregon Court of Appeals sided with the state Thursday, saying the Kleins failed to show the state targeted them for their religious beliefs.
News release from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries:
Avakian on Oregon Court of Appeals ruling: Oregon protections remain strong
Court of Appeals affirms finding that Sweet Cakes unlawfully discriminated against couple
PORTLAND, OR—The Oregon Court of Appeals today upheld emotional distress damages for a same-sex couple denied service by the Sweet Cakes bakery in Gresham. The ruling affirms BOLI’s finding that the owners unlawfully discriminated against the couple in violation of the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 by denying them full and equal access to a place of public accommodation.
The court affirmed both the damages and the underlining violation of ORS 659A.403 while rejecting BOLI’s finding that the Klein’s public statements represented an intent to unlawfully discriminate in the future.
Under Oregon law, businesses cannot refuse service based on sexual orientation, just as they cannot turn customers away because of race, sex, disability, age or religion.
In response to the ruling, Commissioner Brad Avakian issued the following statement:
For the past ten years, the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 has protected Oregonians from unlawful discrimination in housing, employment and public places. Today’s ruling sends a strong signal that Oregon remains open to all.
Within Oregon’s public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the freedom to fully participate in society.
In each civil rights investigation, the Bureau of Labor and Industries approaches the complaint not with a bias for or against the complainant, but with a duty to determine the unique set of facts. In the vast majority of all employment, housing and public accommodations complaints filed under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, BOLI investigators have found that no substantial evidence exists to support charges of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Any Oregon employer seeking to navigate the Oregon Equality Act or other civil rights protections can contact BOLI’s Technical Assistance for Employers with questions at (971) 673-0824.
News release from the First Liberty Institute:
Court Rules Against Family Who Lost Their Bakery for Not Making Same-Sex Wedding Cake
With exception of gag order, court affirms agency’s decision
SALEM, Ore., Dec. 28, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued its decision in the case of Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa. The court ruled against the Kleins, upholding a decision by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) that resulted in a $135,000 penalty and led to the closure of the family-run bakery.
“Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others. 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,” Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, says. “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs. We are disappointed that the court ruled against the Kleins.”
The case, Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, was heard before a three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals. First Liberty Institute, a national religious freedom law firm, represents the Kleins in their appeal along with former President George H. W. Bush White House Counsel Boyden Gray. The attorneys say they will review the decision and consider their options for further appeal with the Kleins.
Read more about the Kleins’ case at KleinFacts.com.
About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.