In Short

US Supreme Court LGBTQ case resembles one in Oregon – with different outcomes

By: - June 30, 2023 3:42 pm
An LGBTQ flag

A case in Oregon involving bakers and a lesbian couple had a different outcome than the case decided Friday by the U.S. Supreme Court. (Getty Images)

The decision in the U.S. Supreme Court case involving a designer who refused to create wedding websites for same-sex couples resembles one decided by the Oregon Court of Appeals last year – but the rulings couldn’t be more different.

The Oregon case, dating to 2013, involved bakery owners in Gresham who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The couple filed a complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice, and the Bureau of Labor and Industries levied a $135,000 fine for discrimination against the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which is now closed. 

Oregon law bans discrimination against people based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status and age. 

The owners took the case to court, saying they had a right to refuse the request based on their Christian religious beliefs. The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the state’s ruling but said the fine was too high. Last July, then-Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle cut the penalty to $30,000.

The Supreme Court’s ruling was based on the First Amendment’s free speech clause. It follows a 2018 Supreme Court decision in favor of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds. 

Following the latest Supreme Court decision, Hoyle, now congressional representative of Oregon’s 4th District, called the judges on the Supreme Court “extremists.” 

People can now discriminate based on their religious beliefs in public accommodation,” Hoyle told the Capital Chronicle, “this is legalized discrimination and a dangerous precedent in the separation of church and state.” 

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley also lashed out against the Supreme Court:

“Discrimination and hate have no place in America,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, today the extremist majority on the Supreme Court has trampled on anti-discrimination laws in an effort to push an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.”

He said the decision will fire up hate and lead to more discrimination. He called on Congress to pass the Equality Act and add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under the Civil Rights Act.

“With the stroke of a pen, the Supreme Court constricted freedoms, and our LGBTQ+ friends, neighbors and community members won’t be able to escape hate and discrimination as they go about their lives,” Merkley said. “To realize the vision of America as a land of freedom and equality, we must be willing to take the steps to bring that vision closer to reality.”

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer also issued a statement: “The First Amendment was never intended to give the right to discriminate. It is not only disingenuous but shameful to abuse it to perpetuate anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. Congress must quickly codify the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans.”  

And the six Democratic members of LGBTQ Caucus in the Oregon Legislature – who include Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, D-Beaverton – also released a statement:

“This decision is proof that even with historic victories, we still have a long way to go for everyone – regardless of who they love or how they identify – to be equal in this nation. We will never live up to our pledge of liberty and justice for all as long as hate and bigotry are protected by the powerful.”

They vowed to protect rights in Oregon.

“We will continue to do everything we can to protect every Oregonians’ right to love who they love and live as themselves,” the LGBTQ caucus said.“We will not give up, and, in the end, we will be on the right side of history.”

Democratic legislators sought this year to amend the state constitution to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and repeal an unenforceable ban on same-sex marriage. They withdrew their proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 33, as part of negotiations to bring Republican senators back to work but have pledged to continue trying to pass those protections. 


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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years.