Owners of a Christian bakery who were fined $135,000 for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding are continuing their years-long legal battle against the Oregon state government.
Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, filed an appeal with the Oregon Supreme Court last week, fighting back against the massive government penalty that they received from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, the state agency that handles non-discrimination claims.
Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, the legal firm that is representing the Kleins, said in a statement that the married couple are “entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free expression.”
“As Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said during recent oral arguments on a similar case, ‘Tolerance is essential in a free society, and tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual,'” Shackelford said. “Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others.”
As Faithwire reported, the Kleins’ woes began in 2013 when they declined to bake a wedding cake for Rachel Cryer-Bowman and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, citing their Christian stance on same-sex nuptials. After a complaint was waged by the lesbian couple, the state stepped in and fined the massive sum of money, claiming the Kleins were guilty of discrimination.
Refusing to renounce their belief that the ruling violated their own religious liberty, the Kleins pushed back against the state’s decision, officially filing an appeals case last year. The $135,000 judgment was ordered to be held in an escrow account until legal proceedings concluded.
The latest decision to appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court comes after the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the state’s penalty against the Kleins, with Stephanie Taub, senior counsel for First Liberty, saying in a statement that the appeals court “undermined America’s promise of protection even for those forms of expression which may be unpopular.”
“Popular ideas are not in great danger of being suppressed or silenced,” Taub said. “The true test of our commitment to freedom is when we welcome disagreement and live peaceably as neighbors anyway.”
The Supreme Court is currently preparing to issue a ruling on a similar case involving a Colorado baker. The results of that legal battle could shape the ongoing balance over religious freedom and LGBT rights.