Oregon Court Rules Against Bakery That Refused to Bake Wedding Cake for Lesbian Couple

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December 28, 2017
The Bowman-Cryer family.

In a decision that is both critically important and completely unsurprising, the Oregon Court of Appeals today upheld the $135,000 fine against Sweetcakes by Melissa, an Oregon bakery that refused to bake a wedding cake for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple.

The Court's decision is unsurprising because it is consistent with decisions by courts across the country that have similarly refused to create a new constitutional right of businesses to exempt themselves from civil rights laws and harm same-sex couples through discriminatory denials of service. 

The Oregon court’s ruling is also an important victory for our clients on appeal, Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer, whose celebratory preparations for their wedding day turned into a humiliating ordeal when they were denied service because of their sexual orientation, as detailed in Lambda Legal’s amicus brief to the Oregon appellate court submitted on Laurel and Rachel’s behalf.

What began as a harmful stigmatizing experience at the hands of the bakery owner who denied Laurel and Rachel service because of their sexual orientation led to years of terrible harassment and death threats after Laurel and Rachel sought legal help. The degradation of the “we don’t serve your kind” treatment experienced by Laurel and Rachel was also detailed in Lambda Legal’s brief to the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop, along with numerous other examples of harmful discrimination encountered by LGBT people in the public sphere, in contexts ranging from cradle to grave.

It is our hope the Laurel and Rachel can now begin to heal from this nightmare and find comfort in the court’s affirmation that they, like all couples, are entitled to equal dignity and the right to participate in the public marketplace, free from degrading second-class status.

On a broader level, the critical relevance of the Sweetcakes by Melissa decision coming out when and how it did is that the case so closely parallels the pending Supreme Court Masterpiece Cakeshop both in terms of the nearly identical facts and legal issues in the two cases.

The fundamental constitutional principle recognized by the Oregon court in Sweetcakes by Melissa – that LGBT people should be treated as equal members of society, not segregated as second-class pariahs by those seeking to exempt themselves from civil rights laws – has been affirmed in case after case across the country, and will hopefully be affirmed by the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop as well.