Oregon Bakers Who Declined to Bake Same-Sex Wedding Cake Have Their Day in Court

By Anika Smith Published on March 2, 2017

Attorneys for Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the now-closed Sweet Cakes by Melissa, argued before the Oregon Court of Appeals today that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) violated the Kleins’ constitutional rights to religious freedom, free speech, and due process.

(For a thorough reading of the arguments in the case, see past Stream coverage here.)

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the Kleins argue that Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries violated state and federal laws by forcing them to pay $135,000 in damages to the woman who wanted a cake for her same-sex wedding.

Lawyers with the First Liberty Institute made the constitutional case, arguing that the state violated the Kleins’ rights as artists to free speech, their rights to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to a due process.

Oregon Labor Commissioner Avakian praised an LGBTQ advocacy group on Facebook before the hearing, the Kleins’ lawyers pointed out, arguing that he should have recused himself.

In a press conference following the lawsuit, Melissa Klein read this statement:

When we opened our bakery, we loved serving all customers who came into the shop, regardless of their identity or beliefs. My cakes were my canvas. I sketched and custom designed each one to fit each couple perfectly. My bakery wasn’t just called ‘Sweet Cakes Bakery,’ it was ‘Sweet Cakes by Melissa’ because I pour my passion and heart into each cake I make. My faith is a part of that. I was happy to serve this couple in the past for another event and I would be happy to serve them again, but I couldn’t participate in a ceremony that goes against what I believe.
I have a strong faith in God, whom I love with all my heart. My whole life is dedicated to living for Him, in the best way that I know how. America is a place where the government can’t force you to violate your religious beliefs or tell you what to believe, but we feel like that is exactly what happened to us. We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build. I loved my shop — it meant everything to me. And losing it has been so hard for me and my family. Nobody in this country should ever have to go through what we’ve experienced.
We just want the government to tolerate and accept differences of opinion, so we can continue to follow our faith. We hope that, even if people have different beliefs from us, that they will show each other tolerance and that we can peacefully live together and still follow our faith. That’s all we want. Thank you.

If the Kleins are successful, their appeal could create a religious exemption to the 2007 Oregon Equality Act. There is no timeline for the Oregon Court of Appeals to issue an opinion on the case.

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