An Oregon state appeals court Thursday let stand $135,000 in damages levied against the owners of a Portland-area bakery for discrimination after they refused on religious grounds to prepare a wedding cake for a local lesbian couple.
The appeals court verdict, released on Thursday, came nearly nine months after attorneys representing the Kleins and the attorneys for the Bureau of Labor and Industries argued before the three-judge panel.
"Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided that Aaron and Melissa Klein are not entitled to the Constitution's promises of religious liberty and free speech", Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, says. The Kleins have directed us to no evidence whatsoever that ORS 659A.403 was enacted for the goal of singling out religiously motivated action, or that BOLI has selectively targeted religion in its enforcement of the statute.
"With this ruling, the Court of Appeals has upheld the long-standing idea that discrimination has no place in America", the couple insisted. Adam Gustafston, attorney for the Kleins, was not immediately available for comment.
A similar case, involving a Colorado bakery, went before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month.
The Kleins chose to fight back against the decision and filed an appeal.
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When Thompson contacted the couple Thursday morning, he said they were elated but still processing the news.
When Aaron Klein discovered the cake was for a gay couple, he told the women he and his wife did not make cakes for same-sex weddings due to their religious beliefs.
Donations poured in for the Kleins, who campaigned in Iowa with Ted Cruz at "Rally for Religous Liberty", and C. Boyden Gray, the former White House Counsel for George H.W. Bush, offered to represent the couple for free. A broad religious exemption to this law would permit any business to deny service to anyone, rendering Oregon's protections against discrimination meaningless.
Nancy Marcus, an attorney with LGBTQ legal and civil rights group Lambda Legal, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, said the ruling "is both critically important and completely unsurprising".
The Kleins were found to be in breach of a 2007 state law that protects the rights of LGBTQ people in employment, housing and public accommodations.
The court did reverse one decision that said bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein violated state law by communicating their intent to discriminate against gay couples in the future, according to KGW-TV.