Thursday, January 27, 2022

Oregon Court Rejects Part Of Its Earlier Decision In Wedding-Cake Dispute

In Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, (OR App., Jan. 26, 2022), the Oregon Court of Appeals, in a case on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, reaffirmed its prior decision in part in a challenge to the religious refusal by a bakery (Sweetcakes by Melissa) to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. The court reaffirmed its conclusion that the refusal violates the anti-discrimination provisions of the state's public accommodation law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It held that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia does not change its earlier conclusion, saying in part:

the Kleins have not demonstrated that Fulton alters our prior conclusion that ORS 659A.403 is a “generally applicable” law for purposes of Smith, nor our related conclusion that, under Smith, the application of the law to Aaron’s conduct of denying cake-making services based on sexual orientation does not violate the Kleins’ rights under the Free Exercise Clause.

The court however did set aside the damage order entered by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, finding that, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, BOLI’s decision on damages violates the Free Exercise Clause.  The court said in part:

[T]he prosecutor’s closing argument apparently equating the Kleins’ religious beliefs with “prejudice,” together with the agency’s reasoning for imposing damages in connection with Aaron’s quotation of Leviticus, reflect that the agency acted in a way that passed judgment on the Kleins’ religious beliefs, something that is impermissible under Masterpiece Cakeshop.

The Oregonian reports on the decision.