(Reuters) - An Oregon state appeals court on Thursday let stand $135,000 in damages levied against the owners of a Portland-area bakery for discrimination after they refused on religious grounds to prepare a wedding cake for a local lesbian couple.
A three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected a petition by Melissa and Aaron Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, to overturn the ruling by the state’s labor commissioner as a violation of their rights under the U.S. Constitution to freedom of religion and expression.
An attorney for the Kleins, who closed their bakery not long after being ordered to pay the heavy fine, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
“Today’s ruling sends a strong signal that Oregon remains open to all,” Brad Avakian, the state’s labor commissioner, said in a written statement.
“Within Oregon’s public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the freedom to fully participate in society,” Avakian said.
The case stems from Aaron Klein’s refusal to bake a wedding cake for Rachel Bowman-Cryer in January 2013 because she was planning a same-sex wedding to her partner Laurel, which he said violated his religious convictions.
Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer filed a formal complaint with the state labor bureau, which found they had violated anti-discrimination laws and awarded the damages.
The Bowman-Cryers were married in 2014 after a federal judge struck down Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban.
The bakery case is one of many disputes nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June 2015 to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Matthew Lewis
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