Klein dba Sweetcakes by Melissa v. Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industry

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Status: Open
Court:
Oregon Court of Appeals, United States Supreme Court
Issues: Anti-LGBT Rulings, Laws and Amendments, Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections, Religious Exemptions

Lambda Legal filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple, urging the Oregon appellate courts to uphold a lower court ruling that the former owners of a bakery violated Oregon’s anti-discrimination law when they refused to sell a wedding cake to Rachel and Laurel because the bakers claimed it was against their religion to help same-sex couples celebrate their marriages.

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Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer had been a couple for more than a decade when they decided to marry. They decided to take that step to provide greater permanence and family structure for their two foster daughters, who they were in the process of adopting.  With the help of her mother, Rachel started planning the wedding.  She and her mother visited Aaron and Melissa Klein’s bakery to order a “Pink Princess” cake just like the one Rachel’s mother had ordered for her second marriage not long before.  But Aaron Klein refused to discuss the order, stating that the business does not make cakes for same-sex couples for religious reasons.  After they left the bakery in shock and distress, Rachel’s mother returned to discuss the refusal and to try to persuade Klein to accept the order.  He told her he considers the women and their relationship “an abomination.” Given her past history with religion-based condemnation of her sexual orientation, Rachel became even more distraught upon hearing about Klein’s censure. That in turn led to depression, which harmed her family relationships.

Rachel and Laurel filed a discrimination complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI), which investigated the matter and held a lengthy evidentiary hearing. The hearing officer then determined that the Kleins had discriminated against the couple in violation of Oregon law, and that the business owners’ rights of freedom of religion and speech do not excuse that violation of state law.  BOLI’s July 2, 2015, order imposed damages of $135,000 against the Kleins and their business.  The Kleins appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals. 

Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Rachel and Laurel in that court on August 29, 2016 recommending that the court affirm BOLI’s judgment.  The brief discussed past precedents in which courts rejected similar demands for religious exemptions from laws barring discrimination based on race, sex or marital status.  It also surveyed the history and continuing problem of antigay discrimination in Oregon. We emphasized that the Kleins’ policy of rejecting same-sex couples violates Oregon law regardless of the Kleins’ religious or other personal motivations.

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on December 28, 2017, affirming the judgment and damages award to Rachel and Laurel. The Kleins then asked the Oregon Supreme Court to review that decision, which Lambda Legal opposed with its March 15, 2018 friend-of-the-court brief.

After the Oregon Supreme Court denied review in June 2018, the Kleins requested review by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Oregon Attorney General’s Office opposed that request on behalf of BOLI in January 2019.