Aaron and Melissa Klein previously ran Sweet Cakes by Melissa, an Oregon cake shop that once refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. In 2015, the Oregon Bureau of Labor imposed a $135,000 fine on the Kleins for discriminating against the women’s sexual orientation, but the bakers proceeded to appeal the decision. Now, the Kleins have lost that appeal, with the Oregon Court of Appeals concluding that they must pay the fine.
It all began in 2013 when lesbian couple Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer came to Sweet Cakes in order to receive a wedding cake for their ceremony. The two were turned away, but under the 2007 Oregon Equality Act, private businesses cannot discriminate against customers based on their sexuality or gender identity. The appeal essentially tested that law—and the courts ruled in the Bowman-Cryer’s favor. In a statement obtained by KPTV, the couple praised the court’s ruling and insisted that it proves “discrimination has no place in America.”
“Without this ruling, businesses could determine who they serve,” the two women wrote to KPTV. “Granting a business like Sweet Cakes a right to turn away customers in violation of nondiscrimination laws would create a sweeping license to discriminate and have far-reaching, damaging consequences.”
The Klein’s appeal mirrors an ongoing Supreme Court case between Colorado baker Jack Phillips and a Massachusetts gay couple. Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for the two men, citing his right to free speech under religious freedom. LGBTQ activists fear the case could overturn multiple anti-discrimination laws on the state and local level if the Supreme Court sides with Phillips, giving conservatives the opportunity to deny goods and services to queer and transgender Americans under religious grounds.