Aaron and Melissa Klein, a Christian couple from Oregon who lost their bakery and were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2013, have filed an appeal at the Oregon Supreme Court against a ruling by an Oregon appeals court upholding a decision to fine them.
"Aaron and Melissa Klein are entitled to the Constitution's promises of religious liberty and free expression," said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute, which represents the Kleins, after the filing of the appeal. "As Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy said during recent oral arguments on a similar case, 'Tolerance is essential in a free society, and tolerance is most meaningful when it's mutual.' Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others."
In December, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a decision by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries that resulted in a $135,000 penalty, forcing the Kleins to close their family-run bakery.
The Kleins refused to make a cake for the same-sex wedding of Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer in 2013, after which a complaint was filed against the bakers. BOLI later ruled in July 2015 that the Kleins must pay damages, as a result of which Sweet Cakes by Melissa was shut down.
"Popular ideas are not in great danger of being suppressed or silenced," said Senior Counsel for First Liberty Stephanie Taub. "The true test of our commitment to freedom is when we welcome disagreement and live peaceably as neighbors anyway. In its ruling, the Oregon Court of Appeals undermined America's promise of protection even for those forms of expression which may be unpopular."
Upholding the BOLI decision, Judge Chris Garrett wrote in his opinion in December that Aaron and Melissa Klein might have sincere religious objections to making wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies, but people opposed to interracial marriages could also ask for the same exemptions, if granted.
"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 said. "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."
In an emotional statement during a press conference earlier, Melissa Klein said she had served the lesbian couple prior to the wedding cake request and would be willing to serve them again. She added that she only wanted to be allowed the right to not participate in a same-sex wedding to honor her faith.
"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 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," she said. "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."
She continued, "I love 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 to be able to live in a place where the government tolerates and accepts differences, where we can continue to follow our faith. We hope even if people have different beliefs from us that they would show each other tolerance and that we can peacefully live together and still follow our faith. And that's all we want."