1. A summary of the opinion legalizing gay marriage in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision this year and its relevance to Oregon churches and religious schools
In a 5 to 4 split decision issued on June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 Supreme Court 2584 (2015), in an opinion written by “swing” Justice Kennedy (who was joined by the Court’s four liberal justices – Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor), held that, under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, (1) “samesex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States;” and (2) “there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.” The Equal Protection clause provides that a state shall not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Due Process clause provides that a state shall not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Continue reading
1. A summary of the Sweetcakes ruling by BOLI and its rejection of the Christian bakers’ First Amendment free exercise of religion defense
On July 2, 2015 – the week after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 Supreme Court 2584 (2015), which legalized gay marriage nationwide (as separately discussed in this newsletter) – Brad Avakian, Oregon’s BOLI Commissioner, issued his Final Order in a BOLI case entitled In the Matter of Melissa Elaine Klein, dba Sweetcakes by Melissa.
Commissioner Avakain ruled that the respondents in the Sweetcakes case, the owners and operators of a bakery, violated Oregon law and must pay the complainants, a lesbian couple, a total of $135,000 in damages because, pursuant to the respondents’ sincerely held religious beliefs, they refused to bake a cake for the complainants’ same -sex wedding. Commissioner Avakain ruled that this violated Oregon’s “public accommodations” law, which, among other things, prohibits a place of “public accommodation” from discriminating against a person based on their sexual orientation. Continue reading
Churches and religious schools are periodically faced with the dilemma of having to terminate a priest, pastor, teacher, or other employee and then answer questions from the congregation and other employees about why the person was let go. Churches and religious schools can feel torn between wanting to explain what happened and fearing civil liability for defamation (a false, unprivileged statement that causes injury to another) to a person who is upset that they were fired. The Oregon Court of Appeals stated the law in this area in Tubra v. Cooke, 233 Oregon Court of Appeals 339 (2010), a case John Kaempf defended. Continue reading