‘Sweet Cakes By Melissa’ Discriminated Against Lesbian Couple, Oregon Hearings Officer Rules

Sweet Cakes is the bakery whose owners declined to provide a wedding cake for a lesbian couple

“The ruling clears the way for a March 10 hearing in Portland in a highly charged case centering on the business owners’ religious beliefs and alleged violation of their customers’ civil rights. In Oregon, such contested civil rights cases can be heard before an administrative law judge or taken to civil court.”

 

The long-running legal battle sparked by a Gresham bakery’s refusal to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple will proceed toward a March hearing after a failed effort to have the case thrown out.

An administrative law judge has rejected an attempt by lawyers representing the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to dismiss the case and award them $200,000 for damages, court costs and attorney fees.

Instead, the judge said in an interim order that Aaron and Melissa Klein unlawfully discriminated against the same-sex couple by denying them full and equal access to a place of public accommodation.

The ruling clears the way for a March 10 hearing in Portland in a highly charged case centering on the business owners’ religious beliefs and alleged violation of their customers’ civil rights.

In Oregon, such contested civil rights cases can be heard before an administrative law judge or taken to civil court.

Both sides had sought summary judgment in the dispute. But in his Jan. 29 interim order, Alan McCullough found that the undisputed facts in the case supported charges of unlawful discrimination under the Oregon Equality Act.

Paul Thompson, a Portland lawyer advising the lesbian couple, said Monday morning that he was happy with the ruling. “The entire time, I felt the law was very much on our side because the law is black and white,” he said. “You cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Anna Harmon of Canby, one of three attorneys representing the Kleins, disagreed.

“The (administrative law judge) recognized that all of the State’s claims but one were baseless and not supported by the facts of the case,” she said in an emailed statement. “We view this as a partial victory. However, the (judge) ruled wrongly that the Kleins’ right not to design and create a work of art celebrating an event which violates the tenets of their religion is not protected by the Oregon or Federal Constitutions. This is a wrong and dangerous result for religious liberty and rights of conscience in Oregon…

“Americans should not have to choose between adhering to their faith or closing their business, but that is what this decision means.”

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