Christian Couple Who Lost Bakery After Heavy Fine for Not Making Lesbian Wedding Cake Loses Appeal
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday against a Christian couple who lost their bakery after a heavy fine for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding back in 2013.
Judge Chris Garrett wrote in his opinion that although Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, may have sincere religious objections to making gay wedding cakes, people who are opposed to interracial marriages could also ask for the same exemptions, if granted.
"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," Garrett argued.
"The Kleins do not offer a principled basis for limiting their requested exemption in the manner that they propose, except to argue that there are 'decent and honorable' reasons, grounded in religious faith, for opposing same-sex marriage," the judge continued.
"That is not in dispute. But neither the sincerity, nor the religious basis, nor the historical pedigree of a particular belief has been held to give a special license for discrimination."
The Kleins refused to provide a wedding cake to lesbian couple Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer back in 2013, which led to a complaint being filed against the bakers with Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries.
BOLI ruled in July 2015 that the bakers must pay damages totaling $135,000, which led to Sweet Cakes by Melissa shutting down.
Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, said following Thursday's ruling:
"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."
"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 Bowman-Cryers, meanwhile, celebrated the decision and said that in Oregon, businesses that are open to the public are open to all.
"With this ruling, the Court of Appeals has upheld the long-standing idea that discrimination has no place in America," the couple insisted.
First Liberty Institute attorneys have said that they will review the decision and consider whether to further appeal.
Melissa Klein positioned earlier this year that the bakery did not discriminate against the lesbian couple, whom they had served before their wedding cake request, and only asks for the right to be allowed not to participate in a gay wedding.
"I couldn't participate in the ceremony, it 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," Klein said in March.
"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."
Aaron Klein declared that the "honest truth" is that he and his wife "just seek to serve the Lord."
"We want to do what's right by Him and at the end of the day, I just want to know that I honor God. ... For us it's about following God no matter the costs. As the Bible says, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," he said.