Supreme Court sends OR wedding cake case back to lower court

The U.S. Supreme Court building

(Oregon hadn't yet legalized same-sex marriage.) Melissa Kline refused them the service on the basis that baking a wedding cake would be inconsistent with her religious beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court told OR courts Monday to take another look at the case of former bakery owners who were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a custom wedding case for a same-sex couple.

The Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious order for women, challenging lower court opinions that blocked the Trump administration's effort to weaken the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate.

Kelly Shackelford, CEO of chief counsel of First Liberty, said in a statement the U.S. Supreme Court's action "is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans". You don't have the freedom to speak, so long as the government labels your speech public accommodation; you don't have the freedom to associate; you don't have freedom of religion so long as the government speaks nicely while taking it away from you.

The court vacated the initial decision in favour of the lesbian couple, and referred the case back to lower courts for "further consideration", in light of the Supreme Court's controversial ruling in favour of another discriminatory baker in 2018's Masterpiece Cakeshop case. "Our ban on uranium mining has protected our citizens, communities, local economies, and waterways for more than 30 years, and the Supreme Court has now confirmed that we are well within our rights as a state to decide that a risky, potentially unsafe activity like uranium mining is not for us". It also punted a controversial OR cake-shop case - dealing with gay rights vs. religious freedom - sending it back to a lower court.

When told there was no groom, Klein said he was sorry but the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings.

The Justices were split on their opinion, with five signing onto the majority opinion and four dissenting.

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First Liberty had hoped the Supreme Court would hear oral arguments and expand on its Masterpiece decision.

OR says the state Bureau of Labor and Industries did nothing more than enforce a "neutral and generally applicable law that requires business owners to provide equal services to all customers without regard to protected status, including race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation".

A similar case, involving a florist in Washington state who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex ceremony there, is on the way to the high court. In fact, the record shows religiosity played a clear role in the incident between the business owners and the same-sex couple.

Moreover, the $135,000 penalty levied against Aaron and Melissa Klein surprised some legal observers, who speculated the fine might be lowered upon re-evaluation of the case.

The state in court papers called the case a straightforward example of denial of service based on sexual orientation. Instead, the justices found that members of Colorado's Civil Rights Commission expressed religious bias against Phillips and did not serve as an appropriately neutral arbiter in his case.

"Unfortunately, the Court's decision to not decide the merits of this case leaves a number of unanswered questions just two years before the next redistricting cycle".

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