The owners of Sweet Cakes bakery were investigated by the Oregon Bureau of Labor Industries after they refused to bake a cake for a gay couple, violating Oregon law. Melissa and Aaron Klein were ordered to pay a $135,000 fine for the violation.
The couple appealed. However, after hearing the case, the Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the ruling. The court did overturn a portion of BOLI’s decision that the Kleins broke the law by saying they intend to discriminate against same-sex couples in the future.
The decision comes nearly nine months after attorneys representing the Kleins and BOLI appeared before the three-judge panel. However, it’s been years since Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer tried to order a cake for their commitment ceremony.
When Aaron Klein found out the cake was for two brides, he told the couple he didn’t make cakes for same-sex couples due to his and his wife’s religious beliefs.
The Bowman-Cryer’s filed a complaint with BOLI, saying they were discriminated against due to their sexual orientation.
A long legal battle ensued, and the Kleins were slapped with $135,000 in emotional distress damages for the Bowman-Cryers from BOLI. The money was placed into a government account until the appeals process ended.
A similar case out of Colorado went to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month. It’s a case the Kleins are watching closely. They argued the government violated their First Amendment rights, and the cakes are art. Therefore, their actions are protected under the law.
According to BOLI, “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.”
Commissioner Brad Avakian issued the following statement following the appeals court ruling:
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.
Sweet Cakes by Melissa has since closed in 2013. The Kleins continued to run their business out of their home until 2016.