Damages cut to $30,000 in wedding-cake discrimination case
A state agency has reduced from $135,000 to $30,000 the amount due to a same-sex couple denied a wedding cake by a Gresham baker back in 2013.
The Bureau of Labor and Industries released its final order in the case on Tuesday, July 12, to comply with a Jan. 26 decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals.
The court upheld its original 2017 decision against the bakers — Aaron and Melissa Klein, then doing business as Sweetcakes by Melissa — and in favor of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, which concluded in 2015 that they violated Oregon's law against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
But the court also overturned its previous approval of $60,000 in noneconomic damages to Laurel Bowman-Cryer and $75,000 to Rachel Bowman-Cryer, both awarded by an administrative law judge in the bureau. The court sent the case back to the bureau because it concluded that the awards were based partly on a conversation about beliefs between Aaron Klein and Cheryl McPherson, Rachel's mother, who the court found relayed it inaccurately to the couple.
Total noneconomic damages awarded under the bureau's amended order now amount to $30,000.
Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle said in a statement accompanying the final order:
"Per the direction of the Court of Appeals, we have recalibrated the damages awarded to complainants to fall squarely within the range of such awards in previous BOLI public accommodations cases, given the record established in this case. This award is based on the violation of law, the record in the proceeding and is consistent with BOLI case history. My amended order is final.
"As this remains a matter of ongoing litigation, I can make no further comment."
The business closed in 2016. The Kleins have pursued the case on grounds of religious rights. A lawyer for the group that represented the Kleins said they will appeal again to the Oregon Supreme Court, and potentially, the U.S. Supreme Court, because they failed to prevail on the issue of religious beliefs.
The U.S. Supreme Court has a similar case from Colorado (303 Creative LLC v. Elenis) that it will hear in its next term, which starts in October. A web designer has argued she should not be compelled under Colorado's anti-discrimination law to create websites for weddings of same-sex couples. Her lawyers say it violates her religious rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but others argue that a Supreme Court ruling in her favor would allow businesses to discriminate against minorities based on their personal beliefs.
Oregon is among 21 states, plus Washington, D.C., where public accommodation laws bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.
A link to the final order by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is here:
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