SCOTUS sends gay wedding cake case back to lower court

by Kim Boateng Posted on June 17th, 2019

The United States Supreme Court has thrown out an Oregon court ruling against bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The justices’ action on Monday keeps the high-profile case off the court’s election-year calendar and orders state judges to take a new look at the dispute between the lesbian couple and the owners of a now-closed bakery in the Portland area.

The high court’s brief order directs appellate judges in Oregon to consider last term’s Supreme Court ruling in favour of a baker from Colorado who would not make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court in the Colorado case ruled that baker Jack Phillips was subjected to anti-religious bias in the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s determination that he violated state anti-discrimination in refusing to bake the couple’s wedding cake. The Oregon appellate ruling came before the court’s decision in Phillips’ case.

The larger issue weighing LGBT rights against the religious objections of merchants remains unresolved. Another dispute involving a florist from Washington state who would not create flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding is headed to the Supreme Court.

In limbo for months

The Oregon case had been in Supreme Court limbo for months, sometimes signalling behind-the-scenes negotiation over what to do. The case involves bakers Melissa and Aaron Klein, who paid a $135,000 judgment to the couple for declining to create a cake for them in 2013.

The dispute began when Rachel Bowman-Cryer went to the bakery with her mother in January 2013. They met Aaron Klein, who asked for the date of the ceremony and the names of the bride and groom.

When told there was no groom, Klein said he was sorry but the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. According to documents from the case, Bowman-Cryer and her mother left the shop, but returned a short time later. As Bowman-Cryer remained in the car, in tears, her mother went in to speak with Klein.

The mother told Klein she had once thought like him, but her “truth had changed” when she had two gay children. Klein responded by quoting Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

The justices already have agreed to decide in their election-year session whether federal civil rights law protects people from job discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Of the 50 states, 21 including Colorado and Oregon have anti-discrimination laws protecting gay people.

Image: American Civil Liberties Union activists demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court.

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