The Supreme Court is throwing out an Oregon court ruling against bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
The justices' action Monday keeps the high-profile case off the court's election-year calendar and orders state judges to take a new look at the dispute between the lesbian couple and the owners of a now-closed bakery in the Portland area.
The high court's brief order directs appellate judges in Oregon to consider last term's Supreme Court ruling in favor of a baker from Colorado who would not make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court ruled that baker Jack Phillips was subjected to anti-religious bias in the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's determination that he violated state anti-discrimination in refusing to bake the couple's wedding cake. The Oregon appellate ruling came before the court's decision in Phillips' case.
The larger issue weighing the rights of LGBT people against the religious objections of merchants remains unresolved. Another dispute involving a florist from Washington state who would not create flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding is headed to the Supreme Court.
The Oregon case had been in Supreme Court limbo for months, sometimes signaling behind-the-scenes negotiation over what to do. The case involves bakers Melissa and Aaron Klein, who paid a $135,000 judgment to the couple for declining to create a cake for them in 2013.
"They are, I feel, basically giving us another shot at this. And I'm really greatful for that," said Melissa Klein.
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The dispute began when Rachel Bowman-Cryer went to the bakery with her mother in January 2013. They met with Aaron Klein, who asked for the date of the ceremony and the names of the bride and groom.
When told there was no groom, Klein said he was sorry but the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. According to documents from the case, Rachel and her mother left the shop, but returned a short time later. As Rachel remained in the car, in tears, her mother went in to speak with Klein.
The mother told Klein she had once thought like him, but her "truth had changed" when she had two gay children. Klein responded by quoting Leviticus: "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination."
The justices already have agreed to decide in their election-year session whether federal civil rights law protects people from job discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum released the following statement:
"We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court chose to send this case back to the state courts. We look forward to returning to the Oregon Court of Appeals, where we will continue to defend the constitutionality of Oregon's laws that require bakeries and other places of public accommodation to serve all customers regardless of sexual orientation."