Thursday, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a $135,000 fine against a bakery had declined to bake a custom wedding cake for a civil union ceremony.
The case began in 2013 when Aaron and Melissa Klein, the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, told Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer that they would not be able to bake a cake for their civil union. In 2013, same-sex marriage did not exist in Oregon.
A complaint was filed against the bakery and the fine of $135,000 was assessed by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which included damages for “emotional distress.”
Sweet Cakes by Melissa has since closed.
The Kleins appealed the decision, arguing that it violated their rights as artists to free speech. In their ruling, the court disagreed.
First Liberty Institute, which represented the Kleins, expressed their disappointment in the decision in a statement released by their president and CEO, Kelly Shackelford. “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.”
Through their attorney, Rachel and Laura Bowman-Cryer issued a statement saying, “It does not matter how you were born or who you love. All of us are equal under the law and should be treated equally.”
The challenge those on the left have with squaring decisions like this with the concept of “equality”, is that the application is anything but equal. The outcome of this decision is that, in Oregon, it is illegal to decline to bake a cake saying same-sex marriage is good but legal to decline to bake a cake that says same-sex marriage is bad.
The backdrop to this decision is the fact that the Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments heard in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Human Rights Commission and is expected to issue an opinion in June. That case also involves a bakery who declined to decorate cakes for a same-sex wedding.
A decision in favor of the baker, in that case, would force reconsideration of this case in light their decision.
While the Kleins and anyone who cares about the First Amendment is undoubtedly disappointed by this decision, help could be on the way.