The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule whether a bakery in Oregon can refuse service to LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs.
In 2013, Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer, went to local bakery, Sweetcakes by Melissa, to order a cake for their upcoming commitment ceremony (same-sex marriage was not yet legal).
But Melissa Klein and her husband Aaron turned the couple away refusing to serve them based on religious objections.
The couple filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries citing Oregon’s human rights law which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Bureau fined the Kleins $135,000 and told the bakers they had to serve everyone equally per the state’s public accommodation laws.
The Kleins decided to shut down their shop rather than serve LGBTQ people.
Publicly, the Kleins asserted the ruling “put them out of business.” According to the Washington Times, anti-gay activists launched a crowd funding campaign that raised $352,000.
After the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the decision by the Bureau, the Kleins went to the Oregon Supreme Court. But the state’s high court refused to review the case.
And so, the couple went to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to have the decision reversed.
While SCOTUS declined to review the petition, the high court did vacate the judgement against Sweetcakes and has sent the case back to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court asked the Appeals Court to review the case taking into consideration the decision by SCOTUS last year in the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop.
In that case, SCOTUS didn’t rule on the constitutionality of whether religious beliefs trump public accommodation laws. Instead, the high court justices felt the Colorado Commission might have allowed anti-religious bias to come into play in their decision against Phillips and sent the case back for review. In doing so, SCOTUS vacated the Commission’s previous decision in a very narrow ruling.
“Rachel and Laurel, the couple who is at the center of this case, has been in the middle of all of this so many years that it would have been wonderful from our perspective for this chapter to finally come to an end and for the Oregon decision vindicating their right to be free from discrimination [to stand] to allow them to bring closure to the case,” said Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer and legal director for Lambda Legal.
McGowan added that she’s confident the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries will arrive at the same decision after reviewing the case.
“I think that their analysis below was extremely thorough, and, I think, in many ways should have been put to rest any of the concerns that the court found in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case to the extent that they want to ask them to go back just show their work and make absolutely sure that there’s nothing to be concerned about,” said McGowan.
“I have no doubt that they will do it, but I don’t think that there’s any reason for us to be concerned that the Oregon Court of Appeals, which is where this was remanded back, will have any reason to revisit its underlying conclusion in that case,” she added.