Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein have appealed to the Supreme Court Oct. 23 after being fined $135,000 for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian wedding.
The Kleins, who are practicing Christians, owned Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon.
In January 2013, the couple declined to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, citing their religious views. The women who had attempted to commission the cake filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, claiming discrimination based on their sexual orientation.
While the matter was pending, Aaron Klein posted the first page of the couple’s complaint–which contained their names and contact information–on the Sweet Cakes by Melissa Facebook page. The women say they received death threats as a result of the posting, which was taken down after one day.
The business shuttered in September 2013.
In April 2015, the Oregon labor bureau ordered the Kleins to pay damages to the plaintiffs. The couple initially attempted to raise the cost of the fine on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, but their effort was taken down by the site, which cited a violation of their terms of service.
Lawyers in the case, Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari on Monday, having exhausted all appeal options in Oregon. The Kleins claim that their First Amendment right to free speech was violated by the state’s decision.
Their prior appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court was rejected in June 2018.
Also in June, the Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, owner of the bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not respected Phillips’ sincerely-held religious beliefs when it ordered him to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple. Philips refuses to make custom cakes for other occasions he disagrees with, such as Halloween, bachelor parties, and divorce celebrations.
However, the narrow ruling applied only to Philips’ particular case, limiting its applicability to other religious liberty cases. Philips maintained he was willing and happy to sell a cake to any customer, but was not willing to custom-design a cake for an event that would violate his conscience.
Unlike Masterpiece Cakeshop, Sweet Cakes by Melissa only made customized cakes.
The Supreme Court has one month to respond to the Klein’s petition for certiorari, but they can extend this by 30 days if they need additional time. If the case were to be heard by the Supreme Court, a decision could be reached by the middle of next year.