Supreme Court vacates ruling against Christian bakers punished for not making lesbian wedding cake

Melissa Klein,decorator and designer (L) and Aaron Klein, baker (R) and their children in the background. |

The United States Supreme Court has again vacated a lower court decision against a Christian couple in Oregon who were punished for not making a cake for a same-sex wedding.

In an orders list released Friday, the Supreme Court vacated the decision against Aaron and Melissa Klein in their ongoing litigation with the Oregon Bureau of Labor.

The high court sent the case back to the Court of Appeals of Oregon to be further considered in light of Friday's ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis released Friday morning.

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Colorado cannot force Lorie Smith of 303 Creative to design websites that celebrate same-sex marriage, which she was opposed to doing on religious grounds.

Justice Neil Gorsuch authored the court's opinion, concluding that "no public accommodations law is immune from the demands of the Constitution" and that “the opportunity to think for ourselves and to express those thoughts freely is among our most cherished liberties and part of what keeps our Republic strong.”

The First Liberty Institute, which is representing the Kleins, released a statement via email in which they celebrated the vacating of the earlier ruling against the Christian couple.

“It’s a win when the Supreme Court vacates a bad lower court decision like it did for Aaron and Melissa today, but the case is not over,” said First Liberty President Kelley Shackleford, as quoted in the statement.

“The Kleins have been fighting for the First Amendment for over a decade and we will stand with them no matter how long it takes to get the victory they deserve.”

The owners of Sweetcakes by Melissa, in 2013 the Kleins refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, citing their religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.

In response, the same-sex couple filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, in which the government entity concluded that the Kleins had violated the state’s accommodations law.

Because of the BOLI ruling against them, the Kleins were fined $135,000 in damages and were forced to close their bakery.

The Christian couple appealed the BOLI ruling in 2016, with the Oregon Court of Appeals upholding the order in a 2018 ruling. This prompted them to first appeal to the Supreme Court in 2018.

In January 2019, the Supreme Court vacated the 2018 ruling against the Kleins and sent the case back down to the state appeals court in light of the then-newly issued Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision.

The Supreme Court had ruled 7-2 in Masterpiece that Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed an unconstitutional anti-religious animus toward Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop when it punished him for refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding.

In January of last year, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of the State of Oregon maintained that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the lesbian couple back in 2013.

However, the appeals court panel also decided to reverse the order requiring the couple to pay $135,000 in damages and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Last September, First Liberty again filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, asking the justices to review another decision against the Kleins given by the Oregon Court of Appeals.

First Liberty Senior Counsel Stephanie Taub said in a statement last year that she believed the Kleins have never received “a fair hearing before an unbiased tribunal” during the litigation.

“We hope the Court will hear the Kleins’ case and clarify that all Americans have a constitutional right to due process, free speech, and religious liberty,” stated Taub at the time.

“After nearly a decade, it’s past time for the Supreme Court to put an end to the state of Oregon’s hostility toward Aaron and Melissa.”

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