Klein dba Sweetcakes by Melissa v. Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industry
Lambda Legal filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple, urging the Oregon appellate courts to uphold a lower court ruling that the former owners of a bakery violated Oregon’s anti-discrimination law when they refused to sell a wedding cake to Rachel and Laurel because the bakers claimed it was against their religion to help same-sex couples celebrate their marriages.
Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer had been a couple for more than a decade when they decided to marry. They decided to take that step to provide greater permanence and family structure for their two foster daughters, who they were in the process of adopting. With the help of her mother, Rachel started planning the wedding. She and her mother visited Aaron and Melissa Klein’s bakery to order a “Pink Princess” cake just like the one Rachel’s mother had ordered for her second marriage not long before. But Aaron Klein refused to discuss the order, stating that the business does not make cakes for same-sex couples for religious reasons. After they left the bakery in shock and distress, Rachel’s mother returned to discuss the refusal and to try to persuade Klein to accept the order. He told her he considers the women and their relationship “an abomination.” Given her past history with religion-based condemnation of her sexual orientation, Rachel became even more distraught upon hearing about Klein’s censure. That in turn led to depression, which harmed her family relationships.
Rachel and Laurel filed a discrimination complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI), which investigated the matter and held a lengthy evidentiary hearing. The hearing officer then determined that the Kleins had discriminated against the couple in violation of Oregon law, and that the business owners’ rights of freedom of religion and speech do not excuse that violation of state law. BOLI’s July 2, 2015, order imposed damages of $135,000 against the Kleins and their business. The Kleins appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Rachel and Laurel in that court on August 29, 2016 recommending that the court affirm BOLI’s judgment. The brief discussed past precedents in which courts rejected similar demands for religious exemptions from laws barring discrimination based on race, sex or marital status. It also surveyed the history and continuing problem of antigay discrimination in Oregon. We emphasized that the Kleins’ policy of rejecting same-sex couples violates Oregon law regardless of the Kleins’ religious or other personal motivations.
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on December 28, 2017, affirming the judgment and damages award to Rachel and Laurel. The Kleins then asked the Oregon Supreme Court to review that decision, which Lambda Legal opposed with its March 15, 2018 friend-of-the-court brief.
After the Oregon Supreme Court denied review in June 2018, the Kleins requested review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Oregon Attorney General’s Office opposed that request on behalf of BOLI in January 2019. On June 17th, the Supreme Court granted, vacated and remanded the case back to the Oregon courts to check for anti-religion bias in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling.
- July 2, 2015: Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) issues final opinion and order that Aaron and Melissa Klein discriminated against Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer in violation of Oregon law, and required that they pay damages to Rachel and Laurel and stop discriminating against customers based on sexual orientation.
- July 17, 2015: Kleins seek review by the Oregon Court of Appeals
- April 25, 2016: Kleins file opening brief in the Oregon Court of Appeals
- August 16, 2016: Oregon Attorney General’s Office files answering brief on behalf of BOLI
- August 29, 2016: Lambda Legal files amicus brief on behalf of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer.
- December 28, 2017: Oregon Court of Appeals rejects the Kleins’ religion and speech arguments and upholds the damages award against them for their discrimination against Rachel and Laurel.
- March 1, 2018: Kleins request review by Oregon Supreme Court
- March 15, 2018: Lambda Legal files opposition to Kleins’ request for Oregon Supreme Court review
- June 22, 2018: Oregon Supreme Court denies review
- October 22, 2018: Kleins request review by U.S. Supreme Court
- January 28, 2019: Oregon Attorney General’s Office opposes request for U.S. Supreme Court review
- June 17, 2019: The Supreme Court grants, vacates and remands the case back to the Oregon courts
- September 19, 2019: Lambda Legal files a second friend of the court brief urging the Oregon Appeals Court to affirm its 2017 opinion upholding a 2015 ruling by the Oregon BOLI
- January 9, 2020: Oregon Court of Appeals hears oral argument.
- January 26, 2022: Oregon Court of Appeals rejects the Kleins’ religion and speech arguments. Reverses and remands the damages award to BOLI.