Oregon Bakers Who Discriminated Against Same-Sex Couple Challenge $135,000 Fine

On the same day that the Colorado Supreme Court announced it would not hear the case of a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, another bakery returned to court seeking a right to discriminate.

Sweet Cakes By Melissa filed a brief with the Oregon Court of Appeals challenging a fine of $135,000 ordered by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries last December. The state agency ordered the bakery to pay damages after it refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2013.

Attorneys for the bakery argue that Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian had already made up his mind about the outcome of the case before hearing any evidence, citing social media posts and newspaper interviews. They also argue that the bakers were within their First Amendment rights to deny the same-sex couple service because such a wedding ceremony "would have violated their religious beliefs about marriage," an argument that, if accepted, could open a Pandora’s box of discrimination. The Kleins’ interpretation of the First Amendment might also allow wedding vendors to refuse service to interracial couples because their marriage violates the vendors’ religious beliefs. What they call religious freedom is really a license to discriminate.

The Kleins’ arguments– and appeal– are certainly not a surprise. In a statement provided by the couple's attorney, Tyler Smith, in December 2015, the Kleins' least costly option to stay on the right side of the law "was to pay the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries funds that will be kept in a separate account until they prevail in their court appeal."

Clearly, Melissa and Aaron Klein intend to defend their brand of discrimination as far as the court system will allow. Based on the Colorado Supreme Court's decision yesterday, it’s a possibility that the bakers will be left with the not-so-sweet taste of disappointment.