The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled Friday that the Christian owners of a popular Portland-area bakery discriminated against a same-sex couple by refusing to bake a wedding cake for their ceremony.
Aaron and Melissa Klein have agreed to participate in a state-ordered conciliation process, which is designed to help the two parties reach an agreement. But the Kleins do not intend to abandon their position, their lawyer told The Oregonian.
If the conciliation process doesn’t end in a conclusion state officials find satisfactory, the labor bureau could take the case to an administrative law judge. Although the Kleins have not said how far they intend to press their case, the question of whether a wedding business has the right to refuse to participate in same-sex ceremonies seems likely to end up eventually before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In November, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) asked the nation’s high court to take a case involving a New Mexico wedding photographer fined for refusing to photograph a same-sex marriage ceremony. Elaine Huguenin took her case all the way to the New Mexico Supreme Court and lost. But she has broad support for her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Libertarian think-tank The Cato Institute, legal scholars, other wedding photographers, and attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia filed briefs supporting Huguenin.
“All Americans should oppose unjust laws that force citizens—under threat of punishment—to express ideas against their will,” said Jordan Lorence, ADF senior counsel. “As those who filed supportive briefs in this case understand, a government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.”
The high court has not said yet whether it intends to take the case.
But Oregon and New Mexico are not the only states trying to force business owners to participate in same-sex ceremonies. Earlier this month, Colorado’s Administrative Law Court ruled bakery owner Jack Phillips violated a same-sex couple’s rights when he refused to bake their wedding cake. In the appeal filed by ADF, which also represents Phillips, attorneys argue the government cannot force Phillips to accept its definition of marriage or compel him to speak a message contrary to his religious beliefs. They also describe him as an artist, not just a business owner, making the distinction between selling a product to a same-sex couple and being compelled to use his artistic abilities to promote something he believes is wrong.
In Oregon, Melissa Klein took to Facebook to thank supporters for standing by the couple during their fight with the state. After local news outlets reported the complaint against them, the Kleins lost business and faced vandalism and threats. They were forced to close their storefront in Gresham, a Portland suburb, and move the business into their home. Despite the struggle and the hardships they have faced, Klein said she felt peace: “Even though there are days that are hard and times of struggle we still feel that the Lord is in this,” she wrote. “It is His fight and our situation is in His hands. We still feel that the Lord is in this. It is His fight and our situation is in His hands.”