SALEM, Ore. – The owners of a Gresham bakery who in 2013 refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple faced the Oregon Court of Appeals on Thursday afternoon.
The hearing was the latest development in a years-long legal saga in which the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) ultimately ruled that Aaron and Melissa Klein violated Oregon’s anti-discrimination laws. BOLI ordered the couple to pay Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer $135,000 for refusing to bake them a wedding cake based on their sexual orientation.
Background: Sweet Cakes by Melissa pays $135,000 fine
The Kleins are backed by a law firm based in Washington, D.C. that specializes in religious freedom cases. They cited their religious beliefs when they refused to make the cake at their business, Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
Judges did not issue a ruling Thursday.
After the hearing, Melissa Klein said she loved making cakes for all of her customers.
"My faith is a huge part of that. I was happy to serve this couple in the past for another event and I would be happy to serve them again," she said. "But I couldn’t participate in a ceremony that goes against what I believe.”
For the Kleins, the case is about the government not forcing them to do something that violates their beliefs.
“But we feel that’s exactly what’s happened to us. We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build,” said an emotional Melissa Klein.
The Bowman-Cryers said they were happy with the state’s decision following a difficult two years that included death threats and attacks on social media. They got married and used a different bakery.
“We support religious freedom as a fundamental belief in America. But religious freedom should not allow anyone to discriminate, target, or hurt others,” they said in a statement.
The Kleins closed their Gresham store in 2013.
Following Thursday's hearing, Basic Rights Oregon, the state's largest LGBTQ advocacy group, vowed to protect Oregonians from discrimination.
"Oregonians decided a decade ago that discriminating against someone because of who they are and who they love is wrong," said the group in a statement, referring to the 2007 Oregon Equality Act. "We respect the rights of everyone to practice their faith, but this doesn’t give any of us license to discriminate. Oregonians can count on us to defend the Oregon Equality Act and the dignity and respect of everyone who calls this state home."