Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals will consider again the administrative ruling by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) against a Gresham, OR, bakery that denied service to a lesbian couple.
In 2015, BOLI determined that the owners of Sweetcakes by Melissa violated Oregon’s nondiscrimination statutes when they refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because doing so violated the owners’ religious beliefs. The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling in 2017, but last June the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that ruling and directed the Oregon court to review its decision in light of the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in favor of a Colorado baker in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer had been together 10 years and were adoptive parents to two special needs children when they decided to get married in 2015 to reinforce their commitment to providing a stable home environment for their daughters. In planning for the wedding, Rachel went with her mother to a wedding cake tasting, having been invited by Melissa Klein of “Sweetcakes by Melissa” in the Portland suburb of Gresham, which she co-owns with her husband, Aaron Klein. It was the same bakery business where, two years earlier, Rachel and Laurel purchased a cake for Rachel’s mother’s sixth wedding. Rachel had scheduled the tasting with Melissa. However, when they arrived, they were met by Aaron, who, when he learned that the wedding was for a lesbian couple, said, “We don’t do same-sex weddings.” He then called same-sex relationships an “abomination,” citing Bible verses. The Kleins then took to the internet, right-wing media and conservative political campaigns to incite their supporters, subjecting Rachel and Laurel to hate mail, on-line and in-person abuse, and death threats.
BOLI determined that the Kleins’ conduct violated the Oregon Public Accommodations Law and, because their conduct caused serious emotional harm to Rachel and Laurel, assessed damages of $135,000 against the Kleins. The Kleins appealed, and the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the BOLI determination in December 2017 in a thorough and well-reasoned ruling. The Kleins, represented by the anti-LGBTQ legal organization First Liberty Institute of Plano, Texas, then petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for review, and, after the Oregon Supreme Court denied review, sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which the U.S. Supreme Court granted in June 2019.
The case is Klein dba Sweetcakes by Melissa v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Read Lambda Legal’s supplemental friend-of-the-court brief filed in the Oregon Court of Appeals on behalf of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer in September 2019 here: lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/or_klein_20190920_supplemental-brief-of-amici-curiae.
Lambda Legal included the Bowman-Cryers’ story in the friend-of-the-court brief it submitted in 2017 to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of itself and 12 other organizations in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Read that brief here: lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/us_masterpiece-cakes_20171030_amicus-brief.
Lambda Legal’s initial friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Rachel and Laurel, filed in the Oregon Court of Appeals in August 2016, is available here: lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/klein_or_20160829_amicus.
Lambda Legal Senior Counsel and Law & Policy Director Jennifer C. Pizer is representing Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer with local co-counsel Paul Thompson of LTL PDX LLC in Portland, Oregon.