Oregon Bakers Who Lost Their Livelihood Over a Gay Wedding Cake Make Appeal to the Supreme Court
On Monday, Aaron and Melissa Klein, the erstwhile owners of the bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, asked the Supreme Court to take up their case. In 2013, the Kleins refused to bake a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding. A state bureaucracy fined them more than their life savings, driving them into bankruptcy and costing them their business.
"Free Americans should never be compelled by the government to create a message that conflicts with their deepest convictions," Jeremy Dys, deputy general counsel at First Liberty, the legal firm representing the Kleins, told PJ Media on Monday. He argued that the Sweet Cakes case "provides a very good vehicle for the Court to clarify whether speech is truly free."
The Kleins gladly served all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Even so, they could not in good conscience craft a cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding. Sweet Cakes by Melissa did not mass-produce cakes, but only crafted cake art for specific events. The bakery became deeply involved with every wedding it celebrated, and therefore could not take on a same-sex wedding.
In 2011, Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, a lesbian couple, requested a cake to celebrate the marriage of Rachel's mother to a man. The Kleins, knowing Cryer and Bowman were homosexual, gladly took the order, and the couple were so happy with the cake that they wanted Sweet Cakes to make a similar cake for their own ceremony.
When the Kleins denied this latter order, Cryer and Bowman went to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), complaining that they had been "mentally raped" by the rejection. BOLI ruled that Sweet Cakes by Melissa had discriminated against Cryer and Bowman due to their sexual orientation, and slapped a $135,000 fine on the Kleins, in addition to a gag order.
While the gag order was later lifted, an appeals court upheld the fine in December 2017. In June 2018, the Oregon Supreme Court refused to hear the case, without giving an explanation.
Dys suggested that the Supreme Court should take up the case for multiple reasons.
Many similar cases have presented the question of whether or not small businesses can refuse to lend their artistic talents to celebrate an event they disagree with, particularly a same-sex wedding.
In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018), the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, a baker who refused to craft a cake for a same-sex wedding. The Court did not settle the central free speech and religious freedom issue, however.