News

Law & the Courts

SCOTUS Sends Gay-Wedding-Cake Case Back to State Court

The Supreme Court (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case involving an Oregon bakery that refused to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding, sending the dispute back to a state court and forgoing an opportunity to clarify its position on the matter after ruling narrowly in favor of a Colorado baker in a similar case last year.

Melissa and Aaron Klein, who together own Sweetcakes by Melissa, were fined $135,000 after a lesbian couple filed a complaint with Oregon’s Board of Labor and Industries in response to the Kleins’ refusal to bake a cake for their wedding. The Supreme Court’s Monday decision represents a partial victory for the Kleins as it wipes out a lower court’s previous ruling against them and temporarily spares them from paying the fine, the threat of which forced them to close their bakery.

The case represented an opportunity for the Court’s conservative majority to expand upon the ruling they handed down last year in the case of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who was fined after refusing to bake a custom wedding cake for a gay couple. The court ruled narrowly in Phillips’s favor after finding that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission displayed “anti-religious hostility” in applying the state’s anti-discrimination laws to him.

The Kleins have employed the same defense as Phillips in their fight against state regulators: Custom wedding cakes, they argue, constitute works of art and, as such, should be protected under the First Amendment.

An Oregon court of appeals had previously dismissed that argument, on the grounds that “even when custom-designed for a ceremonial occasion, [wedding cakes] are still cakes made to be eaten.” The court’s logic was echoed by the state in its filings urging SCOTUS not to hear the Kleins’ appeal.

“Baking is conduct, not speech,” the state wrote in those filings. “A bakery open to the public has no right to discriminate against customers on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More

‘Silenced’

Someone tweeted this cartoon today, which apparently is intended to depict me. A few thoughts: I love the caricature. It’s really good. I may steal the second panel and use it for advertising. I hear this line of criticism fairly often from people who are not very bright or well-informed; in truth, I ... Read More