Ore. court upholds $135K fine against bakers who refused to make gay wedding cake

By Ray Downs  |  Dec. 29, 2017 at 12:35 AM
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Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a $135,000 fine on Thursday against two Christian bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The decision marked another chapter in the longstanding dispute between the bakers, Melissa and Aaron Klein, and the couple, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, which goes back to 2013 when the Kleins refused to provide service and the Bowman-Cryers filed a discrimination complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

The Kleins argued that they shouldn't be forced to make a cake in celebration of a gay wedding because it offends their religious beliefs, but the court ruled that that defense is a slippery slope that would allow more types of discrimination.

"The Kleins seek an exemption based on their sincere religious opposition to same-sex marriage," Judge Chris Garrett wrote in the opinion, according to the Register-Guard. "But those with sincere religious objections to marriage between people of different races, ethnicities, or faiths could just as readily demand the same exemption."

The Kleins were ordered to pay the Bowman-Cryers $135,000 for causing emotional distress for refusing service back in 2015. And although the Kleins already paid the fine that year after raising more than $500,000 online from supporters, they appealed that judgment on grounds that it was an excessive for the emotional distress claim.

But on Thursday, the court shot down that argument, too and said the Kleins failed to prove it was not comparable to previous judgments.

The First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom law firm that represented the Kleins, said it is disappointed by the ruling.

"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," FLI president Kelly Shackelford said in a statement, according to the Oregonian.

The Bowman-Cryers released a statement through their attorney that said the ruling proves "discrimination has no place in America."

"All of us are equal under the law and should be treated equally," the couple said.

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