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Oregon Wedding Cake Discrimination Case Back In Court This Week

<p>Aaron and Melissa Klein taped this sign in the window of their Gresham bakery in September 2013 when they closed the store and moved their bakery business into their home.</p>
<p>Aaron and Melissa Klein taped this sign in the window of their Gresham bakery in September 2013 when they closed the store and moved their bakery business into their home.</p>

The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a former Gresham bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple seven years ago, are heading back before the Oregon Court of Appeals on Thursday.

The case is being reheard after the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a state appeals court decision to uphold a $135,000 fine imposed against bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein.

In June, the Supreme Court declined to take up the Kleins' case, but also ordered the Oregon Court of Appeals to rehear arguments in light of a 2018 high court ruling involving a wedding cake baker in Colorado who also declined to sell cakes to a same-sex couple. In Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court found in a 7-2 decision that the commission had discriminated against the religious beliefs of the baker.

It's with that ruling in mind the Oregon Court of Appeals will rehear whether the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries was right to impose a heavy fine against the Kleins.

"The Supreme Court said that folks like the Kleins need to be treated with neutrality and respect in all circumstances of their case, and there's evidence in this case that did not happen. And so the Oregon Court of Appeals gets another chance to evaluate Aaron and Melissa's claims," said Adam Gustafson, attorney for the Kleins.

Gustafson said there are several instances of bias against the Kleins' religious beliefs.

"We're asking the Oregon Court of Appeals to reverse the decision of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries on the ground that the bureau exhibited unconstitutional hostility for the Kleins' sincerely held religious beliefs," he said.

The Oregon Department of Justice, which is representing BOLI, declined an interview, but said in a statement they plan to make similar arguments that were successful last time the court heard the case.

Jennifer Pizer, who represents Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer — the couple to whom the Kleins declined to sell a wedding cake — said the Oregon Court of Appeals' original ruling already covered the ground the U.S. Supreme Court asked to review.

"This really is a Groundhog's Day treatment of the case in some ways, at least that's our view," Pizer said. "It's already been looked [at]. It's been checked, those arguments have been given respectful consideration. There was no bias here."

Arguments before the Oregon Court of Appeals are set to take place in Salem on Thursday afternoon.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting