A petition for certiorari was filed with the Court on Friday that could allow the Justices to revisit the question presented in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case from last year. The petition comes from Oregon, where the state has an anti-discrimination law, the Oregon Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (among other characteristics) by businesses open to the public. Petitioners (the Kleins) owned Sweetcakes by Melissa, a bakery in suburban Portland that has since shut down. The bakery refused to bake a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple, claiming that doing so would violate their religious beliefs. The couple filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, which found the bakery to be in violation of the anti-discrimination law and awarded the couple $135,000. The bakery appealed the agency decision to the state appeals court, which rejected the appeal. The Oregon Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Sweetcakes filed their case with the Supreme Court Friday.
In the petition, Sweetcakes argues that in Masterpiece Cakeshop there was uncertainty about whether the baker refused only to create a custom cake or instead refused to sell any cake to a same-sex couple. In contrast, Sweetcakes makes only custom cakes, and it refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding, although it had previously sold a cake to the same couple for the wedding of the mother of one the partners. The petition notes the Oregon Appeals Court recognized this distinction and recognized the cake as an artistic expression. Nevertheless, the court ruled against the bakery. For those reasons, the petitioners argue that their case provides an opportunity for the Supreme Court to address the free expression issues it did not reach in Masterpiece. The petition also asks the Court to consider overruling Employment Division, Dept. of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, which held that, absent evidence of animus, laws of general application are not generally unconstitutional if they impose burdens on religious beliefs of exercise.
Written by ISCOTUS Fellow Clayburn Arnold, Chicago-Kent Class of 2021, edited by Matthew Webber, ISCOTUS Editorial Coordinator, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, and overseen by ISCOTUS Co-Director Carolyn Shapiro.