Melissa and Aaron Klein, former bakery owners, have appealed to the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a state court ruling after they discriminated against a lesbian couple.
It started out as just a simple cake order. Five years ago, Rachel Cryer went to the Kleins’ now-closed bakery, Sweet Cakes, to request a cake for her wedding to Laurel Bowman. The bakers refused to fill the order. “We don’t do same-sex weddings,” Aaron Klein told the couple, citing religion as the explanation for discriminating against them.
Afterward, the Bowman-Cryers filed an official complaint against the Kleins to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
In 2015, after a legal battle, an Oregon court ruled that the Kleins had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law and must pay a fine of $135,000 for emotional damages to the Bowman-Cryers. The Kleins initially refused to pay the fine. After finally paying it at the end of the year, they would not admit violating the law and vowed to keep fighting on.
The Kleins closed their bakery in 2016. Claiming that they lost their business due to the fine, they issued the following statement: “This fight is not over. We will continue to stand strong. Your Religious Freedom is becoming not Free anymore. This is ridiculous that we can not practice our faith. The LORD is good and we will continue to serve Him with all our heart.”
After the Oregon Supreme Court refused to consider the case, the Kleins are appealing the Oregon state court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is certainly not guaranteed that the Oregon bakery case will be heard by the nation’s highest court. The majority of cases don’t ever make it there. But if the Supreme Court does choose to take it on, we can guess how it might go. Only this past June, the Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to serve a gay male couple. The decision was limited to specifics in that case; however, the balance of the Court then was not as conservative as it is now with Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the bench.
Obviously, the Kleins are hoping for a similar outcome. The Kleins’ lawyers filed their appeal on October 22, a little over two weeks after Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Since Kavanaugh’s confirmation, there has been an uptick in anti-LGBTQ lawsuits filed at the federal level, with the hope of winding their way up to the SCOTUS.
With those on the religious right seeking to obtain a license to discriminate, despite the opposition of most Americans, we’ll likely see more of these cases in the future.