Judge tells Christian bakers cake isn’t free speech, so pay the fine for discriminating

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The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled against bakers who refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding, upholding the fine against them.

The case involved Sweet Cakes by Melissa owners Aaron and Melissa Klein, who told lesbian couple Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman that they would not bake a cake for their wedding in 2013 because they are “abominations.”

They filed a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries because discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accomodations is banned in Oregon, and they won. The Kleins were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages.

The Kleins appealed the ruling arguing that their free speech rights were violated by being forced to bake a cake for a wedding that they disagreed with.

This week, the appeals court ruled against them.

The heart of their argument is that wedding cakes are a form of creative expression because they’re custom-designed, and being forced to create a “celebratory message” for a wedding they don’t want to celebrate violates their First Amendment rights.

Writing for the court, Judge Chris Garrett didn’t agree: “Their cakes, even when custom-designed for a ceremonial occasion, are still cakes made to be eaten.”

He also responded to the Kleins’ argument that the cakes are art because they work closely with clients to make them. It turns out that admitting that you’re just following orders doesn’t help your First Amendment claim. “They are products of a collaborative process in which Melissa’s artistic execution is subservient to a customer’s wishes and preferences.”

Last, the court rejected the asinine argument that guests at the wedding will assume that the Kleins support that wedding because they sold a cake. “We think it more likely that wedding attendees understand that various commercial vendors involved with the event are there for commercial rather than ideological purposes.”

Garrett wrote that the ruling may have been different had the Cryer-Bowmans asked for a written message on the cake like “God bless this wedding.”

The court ruled that Oregon’s anti-discrimination law serves a specific purpose – to ensure the participation of all people in public economic life – so the Kleins still have to pay the $135,000.

Since the complaint was filed against them in 2013, the Kleins closed their brick-and-mortar establishment and turned to the internet to sell baked goods. They also raised funds for their case online, receiving over $600,000 from contributors.

The Cryer-Bowmans, though, have been subjected to homophobic, misogynist, and violent messages from conservatives for years. They are raising two special needs children while Laurel fights cervical cancer, and last year they say they were denied food assistance because the $135,000, which they still haven’t received, was counted as part of their income.

Despite all this, they still contend that it was important to speak out. “Every family deserves respect, dignity and a life free from discrimination and harassment,” they wrote in The Advocate.

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