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Oregon against baker in landmark LGBTQ case

Case explores discrimination vs. First Amendment

On Dec. 28, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled against two Christian bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The owners of Sweet Cakes bakery, Aaron and Melissa Klein, argued that making the cake, “violated their freedom of speech, religion, and their rights as defendants to a due process.” Conclusively, the owners were ordered to pay a $135,000 fine on the grounds of sexual orientation discrimination.

This case has many parallels to the newly opened Supreme Court Case regarding a local bakery in Lakewood, Colorado, wherein Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, turned away fiancés Charlie Craig and David Mullins when they asked him to bake a wedding cake. The wedding industry is closely observing the results of what will transpire when the US Supreme Court convenes. If the court rules in favor of the baker, the concern of some within the industry is that this case has the potential to open a domino effect of other forms of discrimination taking place. Raising questions on both sides, this case will determine where the legal system draws the line between discrimination and religious freedom.

Photo Credit: Portland Tribune

This ruling ultimately boils down to both respect and tolerance of a person’s religious beliefs, as well as their right to freedom of speech, while simultaneously preventing a rise of a national movement to deny service to same-sex couples. The court, however, is having a hard time determining what professions are considered “expressive,” and what should be protected by the First Amendment.

Noel Francisco, the US solicitor general for the Trump administration, took the side of the baker and argued that people pay very high prices for these sculpted cakes, not only because they taste good but because of their artistic qualities. However, the ruling in favor of the baker has the potential for more businesses to use religious expression as an excuse for discrimination. Going further, other professions could refuse service to targeted groups, such as racial minorities, if they have certain beliefs they feel violate their rights.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case on June 26, 2015, which stated that denying the fundamental institution of marriage to same-sex couples violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution, resulted in both the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide as well as opened new territory for a number of rights and protections for homosexual married couples. Regarding laws of discrimination for the LGBTQ community, there are only a handful of states creating anti-discrimination laws to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as gender identity and expression. For example, in many states it is still legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation. There are also several states that have specifically allowed faith-based organizations to discriminate in provision of services.

While same-sex marriage and same-sex marriage rights are still fairly new, this case has the opportunity to determine the future of rights created for the LGBTQ community. 

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