As we await the outcome in the Supreme Court’s case involving the same issue, an Oregon state judge has upheld a $135,000 fine against a bakery that refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, something forbidden by state law. The outcome of the federal case could overturn this, of course.
The Oregon Court of Appeals decided Thursday to uphold the $135,000 fine issued to the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2013.
Aaron and Melissa Klein, who closed the cake shop in October 2016, appealed the fine to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries in March. They argued the fine violated their rights as artists to free speech, their rights as Oregonians to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to a due process.
They made similar arguments to the ones being made in federal court in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case, which came out of Colorado. Those are two of about half the states that include sexual orientation as a protected class in their anti-discrimination laws, meaning it is illegal for a business that is open to the public to refuse to serve someone on the basis of their sexual orientation just as it is illegal to do so on the basis of race, gender or religion.
They want an exemption for discrimination that is based upon their religious beliefs, but as I’ve explained many times those are exemptions that would easily swallow the rule. There are a great many religious beliefs that could be used to justify discrimination on the basis of race, gender or religion. To grant such an exemption would mean giving religious people a get-out-of-the-law free card and return us to the world of Jim Crow laws.