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U.S. Supreme Court again vacates judgement against Oregon bakers

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For the second time, the U.S. Supreme Court has vacated a lower court decision against a Christian couple in Oregon who were punished for not making a cake for a same-sex wedding.

In an orders list release Friday, the nation’s highest court vacated the decision against Aaron and Melissa Klein in their ongoing litigation with the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries.

The court sent the case back to the Court of Appeals of Oregon for reconsideration in light of its same-day ruling in 303 Createive LLC v. Elenis. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Colorado cannot force Lorie Smith, a Christian graphic artist, to design websites that celebrate same-sex marriage, which she was opposed to doing on religious grounds, despite the state’s protective anti-discrimination law.

“It’s a win when the Supreme Court vacates a bad lower court decision like it did for Aaron and Melissa today, but the case is not over,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the First Liberty Institute, which is representing the Kleins, in a news release.

The Kleins, owners of Gresham, Oregon-based bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, declined to create a wedding cake in 2013 celebrating same-sex marriage, resulting in a gag order and $135,000 fine by the Oregeon Bureau of Labor & Industries, forcing the Christian couple to close their bakery.

In 2016, they appealed the ruling with the Oregon Court of Appeals, with that court upholding the order in 2018. This prompted the Kleins first appeal to the Supreme Court that same year.

In January 2019, the Supreme Court vacated the 2018 ruling against the Kleins and sent the case back down to the state appeals court due to the then-newly issued Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision.

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission demonstrated an unconstitutional anti-religious animus toward Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop when it punished him for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

In January 2022, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of Oregon maintained that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against the lesbian couple involved in their refusal to make a same-sex wedding cake back in 2013.

However, that court panel also decided to reverse the order requiring the couple to pay $135,000 in damages and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Last September, First Liberty filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, asking the justices to review another decision against the Kleins by the Oregon Court of Appeals.

“The Kleins have been fighting for the First Amendment for over a decade and we will stand with them no matter how long it takes,” Shackelford said.

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