An Oregon court upheld a January decision forcing two Christian bakery owners to pay a $135,000 fine for refusing to bake a lesbian wedding cake.
On Thursday, the state’s Court of Appeals found Sweet Cakes by Melissa owners Melissa and Aaron Klein illegally discriminated against a same-sex couple in February 2013.
The Kleins had cited religious objections for not wanting to bake the cake, but the court ruled the refusal was in violation of an Oregon law which restricts businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation.
The bake shop, located in Gresham, was forced to close under intense criticism, but donations allowed the couple to operate the business out of their home up until October 2016.
“We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build,” Melissa Klein told KATU. “I loved my shop. It meant everything to me and losing it has been so hard for me and my family.”
Lawyers defending the Kleins argued in March the court was violating the bakers’ First Amendment-protected free speech rights.
“We believe that freedom of expression for ourselves means freedom of expression for others,” an attorney for the First Liberty Institute said. “And what’s unfortunate here is that a family and their business has been punished because of their religious beliefs. And that’s not America. That’s just flat out wrong.”
The lesbian couple, Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her partner Laurel, were pleased with the court’s decision.
“All of us are equal under the law and should be treated equally. Oregon will not allow a ‘Straight Couples Only’ sign to be hung in bakeries or other stores,” they said in a statement.
KATU reports the Kleins had already paid the $135,000 fine for emotional damages suffered, but the payment was held in government escrow awaiting the outcome of the appeal.
The US Supreme Court expects to rule on a 2012 case involving a Colorado baker who also refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple on religious grounds by June, but it remains to be seen whether the decision will affect the Kleins’ situation.
Attorneys for the Kleins have not said whether they will appeal the decision.