Sweet Cakes owners appeal to US Supreme Court

The owners of a shuttered Gresham bakery fined by the state after refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple want to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers for Aaron and Melissa Klein, the former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, filed a petition Monday asking the high court to overturn the state’s order to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the couple they turned away.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries imposed the damages in 2015 after finding the Kleins had violated state anti-discrimination law. The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the order, and the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case earlier this year.

That leaves the U.S. Supreme Court as the final avenue of appeal, but the odds it will hear the case are long.

The court receives requests to review 7,000 cases each year, but it typically accepts fewer than 150.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado bakery in a similar case.

But that 7-2 decision hinged on the narrow finding that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was hostile to Phillips’ religious beliefs, comparing them to slavery and the Holocaust. An opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy said the commission failed to maintain religious neutrality.

The Kleins’ attorneys said the Colorado case left unanswered the central question of the case, which they framed as a First Amendment issue: whether the government can force business owners to create a message contrary to their religious beliefs.

“Freedom of speech has always included the freedom not to speak the government’s message,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty, the Texas-based law firm representing the Kleins. “This case can clarify whether speech is truly free if it is government mandated.”

The Kleins closed their bakery in 2016, but they’ve remained figureheads for the religious liberty movement. Crowdfunding efforts launched in 2015 raised more than $500,000 for them, and they paid the $135,000 damages award into an escrow account as appeals continued.

– Elliot Njus

Article source: Supreme Court

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