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Colorado ruling leads former Gresham bakers Melissa and Aaron Klein back to Court of Appeals

PMG FILE PHOTO - Melissa and Aaron KleinThe former owners of a Gresham bakery, who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, reappeared before the Oregon Court of Appeals last week to once again state their case.

Lawyers representing Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, asked the Oregon Court of Appeals Thursday afternoon, Jan. 9, to revisit a $135,000 fine against the bakery for refusing to make a cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer.

The Kleins are being represented by First Liberty Institute.

In 2015, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries found the couple had violated the state's nondiscrimination statutes when they refused to bake the cake citing it violated their religious beliefs. That decision was reaffirmed by a ruling from the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2017.

But last June, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the ruling and directed the Oregon court to review its decision in the wake of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which favored a Colorado baker who refused to serve a gay couple.

"The government should not be in the business of deciding whose faith is or is not acceptable," said Keisha Russell, counsel to First Liberty Institute. "Government officials must remain neutral. When government decides whose faith is or is not acceptable, it discriminates against people of faith."

The original dispute began when Rachel Bowman-Cryer visited Sweet Cakes by Melissa with her mother. After telling Aaron there was no groom, he said the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. That confrontation and subsequent airing out in courtrooms led to protests and debate across the region.

While the courtroom arguments were made, the Kleins shuttered their storefront at 44 N.E. Division Street in Gresham in 2013.

Melissa said that while the bakery welcomed and served everyone, they could not endorse all messages. In the past they have described pastry-making as artwork — a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.

"We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build," Melissa said. "Our hope is that maybe someday we can, once again, reopen our bakery and serve everyone without being forced to celebrate events that conflict with our religious beliefs."

There is no timeline for the court announcing a decision.

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