Archive for the ‘#samesexmarriage’ Tag

SCOTUS Reconsideration   Leave a comment

Is baking (or at least decorating) a cake an art? If someone can be compelled to decorate a cake in violation of his/her religious beliefs, does that violate the concept of freedom of faith?

Contrary to popular belief, the Supreme Court never dealt with that issue in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. It declined to deal with these issues, instead ruling narrowly in the baker’s favor because the Colorado State Civil Rights Commission displayed animus toward his religious beliefs. And Elena Kagan felt the question of whether the baker had refused to sell the couple of custom cake or any cake remained unanswered.

The decision is causing the Washington Supreme Court to go through the motions of reconsidering the Arlene’s Flowers case in light of Masterpiece, but there’s an Oregon case involving another baker that has reached the Supreme Court’s doorstep. Melissa and Aaron Klein are practicing Christians who owned and operated a bakery where they made and sold custom wedding cakes. An administrative law judge fined them $135,000 for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, putting them out of business. The Kleins have provided proof that they had gladly served the couple in the past and merely objected to helping celebrate this particular ceremony, but an Oregon state appellate court upheld the fine.

Living according to one’s own conscience is the foundational principle of a free society, which is why freedom of expression is acknowledged by the First Amendment, which doesn’t just recognize your right to say what you wish, but it bars government from compelling you and I to say something you don’t agree with.

Cake decorating is definitely a creative pursuit, an expressive art form. If bakers are artists, they cannot be forced to convey messages that violate their beliefs, whether secular or religious values.

The courts have essentially been saying that only people who agree with same-sex marriage should be allowed to operate businesses related to weddings. That turns freedom of expression into a hollow principle. 

Although quite similar to Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Kleins’ case is neater, with fewer distractions unrelated to the core question of expression. For starters, there is no allegation that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries showed anti-religious animus. Moreover, the Kleins did not sell off-the-shelf cakes to the general public; they created only custom cakes.

The Cato Institute is the only organization in the United States to have filed Supreme Court briefs supporting same-sex couples seeking to get married and vendors who don’t want to participate in those weddings, has now filed a brief supporting the Kleins’ petition to the US Supreme Court.

The Court should take the case to clarify that the First Amendment protects people from having to convey messages or express support for ceremonies with which they disagree. Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries presents an inquiry into the scope and nature of expression itself—and much like a good cake, we hope that the Court finds these issues too enticing to pass up.

Make the Bouquet… Or Else! | Roger Pilon   1 comment

Image result for image of a wedding bouquetTo see how little is left of one of our most important rights, the freedom of association, look no further than to today’s unanimous decision by the Washington State Supreme Court upholding a lower court’s ruling that florist Baronelle Stutzman was guilty of violating the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) when she declined, on religious grounds, to provide floral arrangements for one of her regular customer’s same-sex wedding. The lower court had found Stutzman personally liable and had awarded the plaintiffs permanent injunctive relief, actual monetary damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

This breathtaking part of the Supreme Court’s conclusion is worth quoting in full:

We also hold that the WLAD may be enforced against Stutzman because it does not infringe any constitutional protection. As applied in this case, the WLAD does not compel speech or association. And assuming that it substantially burdens Stutzman’s religious free exercise, the WLAD does not violate her right to religious free exercise under either the First Amendment or article I, section 11 because it is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.

We have here yet another striking example of how modern state statutory anti-discrimination law has come to trump a host of federal constitutional rights, including speech, association, and religious free exercise. It’s not too much to say that the Constitution’s Faustian accommodation of slavery is today consuming the Constitution itself.

Such is the wrath of the crowd that wants our every act to be circumscribed by law—their law, of course.

Consider simply the freedom of association right. That liberty in a free society ensures the right of private parties to associate, as against third parties, and the right not to associate as well—that is, the right to discriminate for any reason, good or bad, or no reason at all. The exceptions at common law were for monopolies and common carriers. And if you held your business as “open to the public” you generally had to honor that, though you still could negotiate over services.

Slavery, of course, was a flat-out violation of freedom of association—indeed, it was the very essence of forced association. But Jim Crow was little better since it amounted to forced dis-association.  It was finally ended, legally, by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But that Act prohibited not simply public but private discrimination as well in a range of contexts and on a range of grounds, both of which have expanded over the years. The prohibition of private discrimination may have been helpful in breaking the back of institutionalized racism in the South, but its legacy has brought us to today’s decision, where florists, bakers, caterers, and even religious organizations can be forced to participate in events that offend their religious beliefs.

Court’s haven’t yet compelled pastors to officiate at ceremonies that are inconsistent with their beliefs, but we have heard calls for eliminating the tax-exempt status of their institutions. Such is the wrath of the crowd that wants our every act to be circumscribed by law—their law, of course. And they’re prepared, as here, to force their association on unwilling parties even when there are plenty of other businesses anxious to serve them. As I concluded a Wall Street Journal piece on this subject a while ago:

No one enjoys the sting of discrimination or rejection. But neither does anyone like to be forced into uncomfortable situations, especially those that offend deeply held religious beliefs. In the end, who here is forcing whom? A society that cannot tolerate differing views—and respect the live-and-let-live principle—will not long be free.

Amen.

A version of this article was first published by The Cato Institute.

Source: Make the Bouquet… Or Else! | Roger Pilon

 

There are larger questions here than can be considered in a single blog post, though the author touches on it. How long before pastors are compelled to officiate at same-sex ceremonies in violation of the clear commands of the Bible the pastor claims to believe? Can a doctor be forced to provide an abortion when he is morally opposed to abortion? Must Muslim restaurants sell pork and alcohol … and why would this exemption be any different than baking a wedding cake or making a floral arrangement for a same-sex couple? Lela

Bakers Accused of Hate Get Emotional Day in Court | Kelsey Harkness   1 comment

The ongoing battle between gay rights and religious liberty escalated Thursday as husband-and-wife bakers in Oregon appealed their case after being ordered to pay $135,000 in damages for declining to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Image result for image of a wedding cakeEvery time we tried to make a constitutional argument it was stomped on, because it was administrative law.

“Everything up to this point has been administrative hearings,” Aaron Klein, co-owner with his wife Melissa of the since-closed bakery, told The Daily Signal afterward.

“Every time we tried to make a constitutional argument it was stomped on, because it was administrative law,” he said. “But now we’re finally in a courtroom where the Constitution and due process can be argued on a level we haven’t seen before. I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome.”

In court, an attorney for the Kleins again argued that designing and baking a cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage would violate the bakers’ Christian faith.

Both the Kleins and the same-sex couple who filed the original complaint against them were present inside the courtroom.

Afterward, while speaking to reporters, Melissa Klein had an emotional response.

“We lost everything,” she said. “I loved my shop, and losing it has been so hard for me and my family.”

In an exclusive telephone interview with The Daily Signal later, she added:

“That was a part of our life, and it was something that we thought was going to be passed down to our kids. It’s something that I miss every day still. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over it because it was our second home.”

A three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from both sides, with questions focused on issues such as:

  • Does Oregon have a “compelling reason” to grant the Kleins a religious exemption from the state’s antidiscrimination law?
  • Does a cake count as artistic expression protected by the First Amendment, and how do you differentiate between what constitutes art and what doesn’t?
  • What was the particular message involved in designing and making a cake for a same-sex wedding, and how is it understood by an observer?
  • To what extent may an artist be compelled to do something?

The Kleins used to run Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a family bakery they owned and operated in Gresham, Oregon. But after the Kleins declined in 2013 to make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding, citing their religious beliefs, they faced protests that eventually led them to shut down their bakery.

In July 2015, an administrative judge for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ruled that the Kleins had discriminated against a lesbian couple, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, on the basis of their sexual orientation. The judge ordered the Kleins to pay the $135,000 for physical, emotional, and mental damages.

Under Oregon law, it is illegal for businesses to refuse service based on a customer’s sexual orientation, as well as race, gender, and other characteristics.

The Kleins maintained that they did not discriminate, but only declined to make the cake because of their religious beliefs about marriage. Designing and baking a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, they said, would violate their Christian faith.

The Kleins appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals on the basis of their constitutional rights to religious freedom, free speech, and due process.

The three appeals judges also pursued these lines of questioning:

  • Was the award of damages—the $135,000 the Kleins were ordered to pay—out of line with other cases before the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries?
  • Was it reasonable for that state agency to extend the damages through more than two years after the alleged discrimination actually occurred?
  • Did Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian prejudge the case and in doing so strip the Kleins of their right to due process?
  • How is sexual orientation different from race as a personal characteristic?

Each side had equal time to make their case and the Kleins, as plaintiffs, got an additional five minutes for a rebuttal. The oral arguments were live-streamed, and may be watched in full here.

“The government should never force someone to violate their conscience or their beliefs,” Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom group that represents the Kleins, said in a press statement, adding:

The administrative judge who issued the final ruling also is employed by the state agency.

“In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs. We hope the court will uphold the Kleins’ rights to free speech and religious liberty.”

But Charlie Burr, a spokesman for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, whose lawyers represent the Bowman-Cryers,  said:

“The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that the Kleins unlawfully discriminated against a same-sex couple when they refused service based on sexual orientation.”

Since the case began in 2013, the Kleins have argued the cards were stacked against them.

Lawyers for the Bureau of Labor and Industries pursued the charges against the Kleins on behalf of the lesbian couple, who went on to marry.

Avakian, the agency official, made multiple public comments criticizing them before any rulings, the Kleins said.

The administrative judge who issued the final ruling also is employed by the state agency.

Besides ordering the Kleins to pay $135,000, Avakian ordered the former bakery owners to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.

Both parties have said the case has taken a heavy toll on their families. Aaron and Melissa Klein, who have five children, say they continue to face hurtful attacks from liberal activists.

According to an article the Bowman-Cryers wrote for The Advocate, a publication focused on LGBT issues, they are foster parents for two “high-needs” girls.

“Part of the reason we decided to get married in the first place was to provide stability for our daughters,” they wrote, adding:

Before we became engaged, we became foster parents for two very high-needs girls after their mother, a close friend of ours, died suddenly. Lizzy, now 9, has cerebral palsy, autism, and a chromosomal disorder that causes developmental delays. Anastasia, now 7, has Asperger’s and stopped speaking when her mother died.

While the case wound its way through the courts, we won full adoptive custody of Lizzy and Anastasia, and they are the light of our lives.

The appeals judges are not expected to rule for several months. If they rule against the Kleins, the couple’s next step would be appealing to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Republished from the Daily Signal.

Source: Bakers Accused of Hate Get Emotional Day in Court | Kelsey Harkness

 

I would point out that even if the Kleins win their case in court, they have still lost as this has taken their businesses and more of less bankrupted them. I would also point out because the article does — this lesbian couple were repeat customers. Melissa Klein had served them before when the service was not a wedding cake. Lela

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