Portland, Oregon Civil Litigation Defense Attorneys - Kaempf Law Firm PC

A Blog by John Kaempf

The Status of the “Sweetcakes by Melissa” Christian Bakery-Gay Wedding Case in Oregon

Readers of this blog likely know that in 2015, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide, Brad Avakian, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries “BOLI” Commissioner, issued his Final Order in a BOLI case entitled In the Matter of Melissa Elaine Klein, dba Sweetcakes by Melissa.

BOLI Commissioner Avakian ruled that the respondents in the Sweetcakes case, Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Christian owners of a bakery, who, pursuant to their sincerely held Christian beliefs, refused to create a personalized cake for the complainants’ same-sex wedding, violated Oregon law. Commissioner Avakian held that the Kleins violated Oregon’s public accommodations law, which prohibits a place of public accommodation from discriminating against a person based on their sexual orientation. He further ruled that the Kleins must pay the complainants $135,000 in damages.

Commissioner Avakian also accused the Kleins of “bigotry” in his Final Order.

In December 2017, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed BOLI’s ruling that the Kleins violated Oregon’s public accommodations law, thereby upholding the $135,000 damages award against them.  The court rejected the Kleins’ First Amendment free speech and free exercise of religion arguments.  The Kleins can now ask the Oregon Supreme Court to exercise its discretion to hear their appeal, although it will likely reach the same decision.  Their case will be effectively decided by June 2018 in a virtually identical case from Colorado now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court called “Masterpiece Cakeshop.”

Readers can monitor this issue through the Religious Law Update Blog on the top of the Home page of www.kaempflawfirm.com.

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The important religious freedom issue raised by Oregon’s “Sweetcakes by Melissa” gay wedding-Christian bakery case will be decided in 2018 by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case from Colorado called “Masterpiece Cakeshop.”

Jack Phillips owns Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery in a small Colorado town. In the summer of 2012, two men came into his shop one afternoon asking him to make a cake for their gay wedding. Jack responded: “I’m sorry, but I can’t promote messages that violate my beliefs, though I’d be happy to sell you anything else.”

Phillips has been a Christian for over thirty-five years and believes in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He also believes that decorating cakes is a form of art, that he can honor God through his artistic talents, and that he would displease God by creating cakes for same-sex marriages. Continue reading

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In June 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called “Trinity Lutheran Church,” held that churches cannot be excluded from neutral state programs for public benefit, and churches may directly receive state money from these programs.

On June 26, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in a case entitled Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. By a 7–2 margin, with two liberal justices (Breyer and Kagan) joining the Court’s four conservative justices, including Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the Court this year, and “swing” Justice Kennedy, the Court held that when a state (Missouri in this case) creates a neutral program for public benefit — in this case, a program that uses scrap tires to provide rubberized safety flooring for playgrounds — the state cannot exclude a church from that program. Continue reading

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One or more additional U.S. Supreme Court vacancies could occur during President Trump’s at least one term in office.

This year, deceased U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia was replaced by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by President Trump. Justice Gorsuch has already shown himself to be a supporter of religious freedom, as discussed elsewhere in this newsletter.

Currently, the nine-member Court consists of 5 conservative justices and 4 liberal justices. Justice Kennedy is generally conservative, but is often an unpredictable “swing” vote. For example, he voted with the majority in the 2015 Obergefell decision legalizing same sex marriage nationwide. Continue reading

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