OR appeals court upholds damages in gay wedding cake case

Elias Hubbard
December 29, 2017

An appeals court has upheld a 2015 decision by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries that fined a bakery $135,000 for refusing to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple.

Aaron and Melissa Klein, who closed the cake shop in October 2016, appealed the fine to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries in March.

The Kleins had appealed the BOLI commissioner's decision, arguing that it violated their constitutional right to free expression. The Bowman-Cryers complained to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, saying they had been refused service due to their sexual orientation.

BOLI ordered the Kleins to pay the lesbian couple $135,000 in emotional damages, saying that under OR law, business owners can't discriminate based on sexual orientation.

"Although we accept that the Kleins imbue each wedding cake with their own aesthetic choices, they have made no showing that other people will necessarily experience any wedding cake that the Kleins create predominantly as "expression" rather than as food", the court wrote in its opinion.

But in their ruling Thursday, a panel of state appeals court judges sided with Avakian, saying the Kleins did, in fact, deny the Bowman-Cryers because they were lesbians.

"Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others", First Liberty Institute president Kelly Shackelford said.

Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer praised the ruling in a statement through their attorney: "It does not matter how you were born or who you love".

"For the past 10 years, the Oregon Equality Act of 2007 has protected Oregonians from unlawful discrimination in housing, employment and public places", Avakian said in a statement. "OR will not allow a "Straight Couples Only" sign to be hung in bakeries or other stores", the couple stated.

"Within Oregon's public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the freedom to fully participate in society", Avakian said.

The Oregon ruling comes as the U.S. Supreme Court has taken up the question of whether wedding vendors who disagree with gay marriage must be forced to service same-sex wedding ceremonies, even if doing so would violate their religious convictions.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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