Oregon Supreme Court Denies Review of Case Similar to Masterpiece Cakeshop, Leaving LGBTQ Protections in Place

By Shane Stahl • June 22, 2018 • 5:08 pm

The Oregon Supreme Court has declined to review a case filed by Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, against the state’s Bureau of Labor & Industries after two lower rulings against them for refusing service to a lesbian couple.

In 2013 a same-sex couple, Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer approached the business in seeking a cake for their upcoming wedding. Claiming that selling a cake to a same-sex couple would violate their religious beliefs, the Kleins turned the couple away, in violation of Oregon’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law. Following this, the couple filed a complaint with the Bureau of Labor & Industries, who in 2015 ruled against the Kleins for unlawful discrimination, and imposed a fine of $135,000.

With the help of First Liberty Institute, an anti-LGBTQ organization, the Kleins filed to have their case heard before the Oregon Court of Appeals. The court upheld the Bureau’s decision, and in his opinion, Judge Chris Garrett wrote:

“The Kleins seek an exemption based on their sincere religious opposition to same-sex marriage; but those with sincere religious objections to marriage between people of different races, ethnicities, or faiths could just as readily demand the same exemption.”

This denial by the Oregon Supreme Court comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, which concerned a baker who refused service to a gay male couple. Although the Court granted that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission erred in its early handling of the case, Justice Anthony Kennedy reaffirmed in his opinion that discrimination against LGBTQ people was unlawful. People across the country, including faith leaders and small business owners, submitted briefs to the Court and used their voices to state unequivocally that businesses do not have the right to refuse service to anyone based on their religious beliefs. The refusal of the Oregon court continues to uphold what we know to be true: Businesses open to the public must be #OpentoAll.

The couple’s attorneys have indicated they will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court; the Court is also considering review of a similar case, Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, concerning a flower shop that refused service to a same sex couple.

To view all cases concerning LGBTQ discrimination, use our Litigation Tracker here.

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