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Verdicts & Settlements

Supreme Court Won’t Review Case of Oregon Baker Who Refused to Make Wedding Cake for Lesbian Couple

— June 19, 2019

The Supreme Court did, however, give the baker a second chance at winning their suit.

The Supreme Court has chosen not to review the case of an Oregon baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

According to Pacific Standard, the lawsuit arose when Sweet Cakes owners Melissa and Aaron Klein refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in 2013. The Portland bakery—which has since closed—was promptly hit with a $135,000 fine.

The case is obviously reminiscent of its spiritual predecessor.

Last year, the Supreme Court backed the appeal of a Colorado baker who similarly declined to bake for gay couple. The snubbed, would-be customers promptly lodged a complaint, claiming the refusal was a violation of the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission was quick to agree. Their decision, notes the Pacific Standard, was reaffirmed by a state court.

However, on appeal, the Supreme Court opted to back the baker. But their decision had more to do with the handling of the initial complaint than the bigger issues at play. The justices, in a 7-2 decision, determined that the Civil Rights Commission hadn’t been neutral its evaluation of the baker’s rationale: that making a wedding cake is an expression of art, and artists cannot be compelled to provide labor against their sincerely held religious or ideological convictions.

LGBTQ flag. Image via Flickr/user:stockcatalog. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The justices’ determination didn’t touch on discrimination, LGBTQ rights or the First Amendment.

In Oregon, notes the Standard, a similar debate rose up around Sweet Cakes. In Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, ‘a major point of contention has been whether the cake can be classified as art.’

The Kleins, in fact, adopted the same argument as the Colorado baker: that they, as ‘artists,’ don’t have to make a cake endorsing an ideal or lifestyle they deem wrong or otherwise unacceptable.

While the Supreme Court was clearly troubled by the notion of having to determine whether a wedding cake is sufficiently expressive to be protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, an Oregon court decided that a bakery’s cakes shouldn’t be considered the same as speech or “traditional forms of artistic expression.”

The Supreme Court’s rejection of the case isn’t a dismissal: rather, the justices sent it back to lower courts for review.

Interestingly, the refusal actually revives Sweet Cakes’ suit. As reports, the Kleins were hoping to over-turn the $135,000 in damages imposed upon their business by the state Bureau of Labor and Industries.

But the couple exhausted all their appeals in Oregon, with the state Supreme Court refusing to hear their case.

The justices’ determination means that Sweet Cakes could get a second shot and a different ruling. In the meantime, the Kleins have attracted considerable conservative support: right-wing Christians raised more than $500,000 for them in 2015. That money was used to pay the fine, the remainder put into an escrow account as the case continues.



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