A Supreme Court ruling handed down earlier this week not only means a lot for a Colorado baker, but possibly for a couple of former bakery owners in Oregon as well.
In a 7-2 ruling Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips' rights under the First Amendment. Reactions to the ruling were mixed, perhaps reflecting the confusing description of the lopsided vote as a "narrow" decision.
"It's not a far-reaching opinion, [and] some might even describe it as a narrowly decided opinion, but that doesn't mean it is not an important decision," says attorney Mike Berry of First Liberty Institute. "It certainly means a great deal to [Phillips] – and it also means a great deal to First Liberty Institute clients, such as Aaron and Melissa Klein."
The Kleins owned a bakery in Oregon – until, that is, they declined to design a cake for a same-sex "wedding," citing religious objections. A decision by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries against the Christian couple, upheld by a state appeals court, led to a $135,000 penalty, which forced them out of business. (See recent related story)
"A lot of the issues that the Supreme Court identified in the Masterpiece decision are also at play in Aaron and Melissa Klein's case," says Berry. "[In the Masterpiece case, justices] talk about some of the anti-religious hostility that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission displayed in Jack Phillips' case – well, there's also a great deal of anti-religious hostility and bias in Aaron and Melissa Klein's case."
Berry is optimistic that the language from the Masterpiece decision will be favorable to the Klein's case. First Liberty Institute and Boyden Gray (former White House counsel for President George H.W. Bush) represent the Kleins as they appeal the State of Oregon's actions to the Oregon Supreme Court.