Showing posts with label Court. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Court. Show all posts

January 15, 2019

Court Orders Trump Admin to Remove Citizenship Question on 2020 Census




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A federal judge in New York has ruled against the Trump administration's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ordered the administration to stop its plans to include the controversial question on forms for the upcoming national head count "without curing the legal defects" the judge identified in his opinion released on Tuesday.


Furman's decision marks a significant milestone in a legal battle that began shortly after the Trump administration announced last year that the 2020 census would include a controversial question about U.S. citizenship status. The added question was: "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" All U.S. households have not been asked such a question on the census since 1950.

 
How The 2020 Census Citizenship Question Ended Up In Court
Furman has noted that he does not expect his order to be the final word on the question's fate. The district court ruling in New York is expected to be appealed to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, ultimately, to the Supreme Court.

In addition to the two lead cases before Furman at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the administration is fighting five more lawsuits across the country filed by dozens of states, cities and other groups that want the question removed. A second trial over the question began earlier this month in California, and another is scheduled to begin in Maryland on Jan. 22. 
Citizenship Question May Be 'Major Barrier' To 2020 Census Participation
The Supreme Court has already agreed to weigh in on a dispute over the evidence that can be considered for the lawsuits. The justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments in February on that issue, as well as on whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, can be questioned under oath by the plaintiffs' attorneys about why he approved adding the question.

The administration has maintained that the citizenship question was added because the Justice Department wants to use the responses to better enforce Voting Rights Act provisions that protect racial and language minorities from being discriminated against.

Census Bureau To Test How Controversial Citizenship Question Affects Responses
NATIONAL

Census Bureau To Test How Controversial Citizenship Question Affects Responses
The lawsuits' plaintiffs, however, have argued that the administration has been misleading the public. Ross, the plaintiffs insist, misused his authority over the census and, by adding the citizenship question, discriminated against immigrant communities of color. Research by the Census Bureau suggests asking about citizenship status in the current political climate will scare households with noncitizens from participating in the head count. That, in turn, could jeopardize the constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S.

August 4, 2018

District Court in DC Orders Government To Start Taking DACA Applications


 






The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the country’s original civil rights organization, today celebrates a huge victory for DACA participants and DACA-eligible persons around the nation.
Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia affirmed its prior ruling that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) violated the Administrative Procedure Act by rescinding the DACA program without sufficient explanation. Rejecting arguments by the federal government and newly articulated justifications from DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the court ruled once again that the government failed to explain adequately its assertion that DACA is unlawful and it vacated the “Rescission Memorandum” which purported to terminate the DACA program.

Read the Opinion (PDF)


“This represents a powerful victory against attempts to dehumanize immigrants who are law-abiding and productive residents of the United States and who were long ago brought to this country as children through no fault of their own,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.
The NAACP filed its case in September 2017 against President Trump, Attorney General Sessions, then-DHS Secretary Duke, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, in defense of people of color who are participating in or are eligible for the DACA program.  The NAACP was joined in the case by two of the nation’s largest labor unions- the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the United Commercial Food Workers (UCFW). Later Princeton University and Microsoft Corporation filed a similar case that was joined with the NAACP case.
The NAACP and its co-plaintiffs successfully argued that the defendants failed in their efforts to articulate a legally sufficient justification for reneging on the commitments extended through the DACA program to undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children and who meet the program’s other eligibility requirements.  Plaintiffs alleged that the rescission of the DACA program violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the Administrative Procedure Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act.  The court ruled in April 2018 that the “Rescission Memorandum” issued by DHS in September 2017 violated the Administrative Procedure Act  (“APA”) because it failed to explain adequately why the government concluded that DACA was unlawful.  While vacating the Rescission Memorandum in its original order, the court gave the government 90 days to explain more fully the basis for its decision to terminate DACA. The government’s latest attempt to justify its decision fared no better than its first attempt, as the court once again found the explanation lacking and thus in violation of the APA.  The court maintained its stay of the vacatur order for another 20 days in order to give the government time to decide what to do next.
“This is what happens when the government manufactures a bogus policy rationale for actions that are rooted in discrimination,” said Bradford M. Berry, General Counsel of the NAACP.  “We applaud the court for its careful application of the governing legal principles to this case.”
Joseph M. Sellers, managing partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC, served as lead counsel for the NAACP in the case.
Originally posted by NAACP

July 13, 2018

India Court Says Homosexuality is Not an Aberration Expected to Rule on(gay) Sex








NEW DELHI - Gay people in India face deep-rooted trauma and live in fear, the Supreme Court said on Thursday before deciding whether or not to scrap a colonial-era ban on homosexuality.
A five-judge bench made the comments while hearing a challenge to the ban, which the top court reinstated in 2013 after a four-year period of decriminalization. 
Gay sex is considered taboo by many in socially conservative India, and despite opposition to lifting the ban from other petitioners and some lawmakers, activists were hopeful of a positive judgment after Thursday’s hearing.
“(Homosexuality) is not an aberration, but a variation,” said Justice Indu Malhotra. “Because of family pressures and societal pressures, they are forced to marry the opposite sex and it leads to bi-sexuality and other mental trauma.” 
The homosexuality law, commonly known as “Section 377,” prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” -- which is widely interpreted to refer to homosexual sex. Gay sex is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
A lawyer for the government said that it would leave it to “the wisdom” of the court to decide the constitutional validity of Section 377. 
Lawyers for petitioners seeking to scrap the 157-year-old law have argued that sexual orientation is an intrinsic part of individual identity.
“This law has created utter chaos,” Ashok Desai, a lawyer for one of the petitioners, told the court. Desai also argued that homosexuality was not alien to Indian cultural traditions, making a reference to a transgender character in the Mahabharata, an Indian epic.
Subramanian Swamy, a prominent lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party, said this week that homosexuality was unnatural and against Hindu nationalism.
The court will resume hearing arguments from groups which support the homosexuality ban on Tuesday.

June 6, 2018

European Court Rules For Freedom Of Movement for Same Sex Married Couples


                       
EU ECJ spouse definition gay marriage same sex marriage






The European Court of Justice ruled today that as far as the laws of free movement within the European Union are concerned, the term “spouse” includes married people of the same sex (pdf).
It is a victory for a US-Romanian couple who asked the EU’s top court to rule that gay married couples have the same rights to live in whatever country they want in the bloc as straight people, even if gay marriage is illegal in the EU member state they live in.
Romanian citizen Adrian Coman and American Clai Hamilton met in America in 2002 and married in Brussels in 2010. When Coman’s job at the European Parliament ended in 2012, he tried to register their marriage certificate with the Romanian consulate in Brussels, to claim residence rights for his husband and was denied.
The pair sued Romania, accusing it of violating EU laws that allow couples to live and work anywhere in the bloc. The case reached the ECJ in 2016.
The ECJ has the ultimate say and its rulings must be adopted by all member states. Currently, 22 out of 28 EU member states allow gay marriage and civil partnerships but the freedom of movement rights differed in countries where same-sex partnerships were not recognized.
The ruling will likely fan the flames of hatred towards Brussels not just in Romania, but among eurosceptic, right-wing governments in countries like Poland, Hungary and Latvia too, who argue that it’s up to national governments, not Brussels to decide how to define marriage.

WRITTEN BY

April 14, 2018

Sex Between Gays Will be Decriminalized In Trinidad and Tobago following Court Judgement






Gay sex between consenting men in Trinidad and Tobago could soon be decriminalized following a court judgment that campaigners said might spark similar decisions elsewhere in the Caribbean. 
In his ruling on Thursday, judge Devindra Rampersad said sections of the Sexual Offences Act, which prohibit “buggery” and “serious indecency” between two men, criminalized consensual same-sex activity between adults, and were unconstitutional. 
“The judge came down on the right side of history in this case by striking down the buggery law and ruling it as unconstitutional,” said Kenita Placide, Caribbean advisor for rights group OutRight Action International, in a statement. 
The decision followed a similar ruling in Belize in 2016. 
“With positive rulings in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, the movement will carry the momentum to other parts of the region,” she said.
A final judgment on how to deal with the sections of the act is expected in July, rights groups and local media said. 
The case was brought in 2017 by Jason Jones, an activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues who lives in Britain but was born in Trinidad and Tobago. 
In an online campaign, he said he wanted to challenge laws inherited while the country was under British rule.  Trinidad and Tobago became a republic in 1976. Last year, it was one of five countries which amended its laws to ban child marriage. 
But it has no laws protecting LGBT people, and rights groups say many LGBT people fear being open about their views or orientation. Being convicted of buggery carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, according to the law. 
Thursday’s ruling was welcomed outside the courthouse by large crowds wearing rainbow outfits and singing the national anthem. Earlier this week, hundreds of people gathered outside parliament to show support for the case. 
Colin Robinson, director of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation, warned there was a long way to go. 
“I don’t want to be alarmist, but I expect that this will take time for people to accept, and we hope the violence is minimal,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Trinidad and Tobago. 
The group, which works for justice on sex and gender issues, said it expected the government would appeal the ruling. 
In February, the nearby island of Bermuda became the world’s first nation to reverse a law allowing same-sex marriage. LGBT activists feared that would set a dangerous precedent for gay rights and reverberate far beyond the region. 
(Thomson Reuters Foundation) 
Additional reporting by Emma Farge in Bermuda; Editing by Robert Carmichael. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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March 5, 2018

Sky Diver Donald Zarda, Plaintiff For Getting Fired for Being Gay, Not Here to See His Victory

“It was a good landing,” Donald Zarda told a TV reporter as he unstrapped his helmet after landing safely on the ground in Castelo, Brazil, where he was competing in the 2013 World Wingsuit Race. “Any landing you walk away from is a good landing.”
At that time, Zarda was 43 years old. He had taken up BASE-jumping just a few years earlier and had been skydiving for more than 20 years. Extreme sports, especially skydiving, were his life’s passion, according to his family, and they were also the cause of his untimely death in 2014, four years before a landmark gay-rights lawsuit would be decided in his favor. 
In 2010, while working as a skydiving instructor at Altitude Express in New York, Zarda told a female student that he was gay. According to legal documents, he often informed his female clients of his sexual orientation to “mitigate any awkwardness that might arise from the fact that he was strapped tightly” to them during a tandem skydive.






This 2006 photo provided by Melissa Zarda at her home in Kansas City, 
Missouri, shows her brother, Donald Zarda. Melissa Zarda / AP















In this particular instance, however, his disclosure backfired. The woman informed her boyfriend about Zarda’s comment, and her boyfriend in turn complained to Altitude Express, which promptly fired Zarda.
When Zarda found out the student had also accused him of inappropriately touching her during their skydive, he was “absolutely mortified,” according to William Allen Moore, Zarda’s former partner.
Citing Zarda’s professionalism and obsession with safety, Moore said there was “absolutely no way” Zarda would have touched anyone inappropriately.
In September 2010, Zarda filed a lawsuit against his former employer claiming the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against him because of his sexual orientation. 
Zarda and Moore met nearly 20 years ago in Dallas, Texas, when they were 30 and 26, respectively. Zarda had been working at a skydiving company near Austin at the time. Moore recalled meeting the “very handsome, Greek god” in a Dallas club and said they immediately hit it off.






 William Allen Moore and Donald Zarda's first jump together in Texas. 
Courtesy Of William Moore












Looking back, Moore said he was not surprised when the very next morning Zarda invited him to go skydiving. Moore has jumped 10 times since that first jump with Zarda. “He was the person you wanted to go with if you ever went skydiving,” Moore said.
Zarda lived a rather nomadic lifestyle, jumping from one place to the next, from one continent to another, Moore said. As Zarda traveled and skydived around the world over the years, Moore would often accompany him.
The third of four children, Zarda grew up on a Missouri estate where horses, chickens and stray cats were commonplace. Anyone who knew “Don,” as he was affectionately known by his friends and family, knew that he loved animals, according to Moore. The couple had even shared six cats in their Dallas home.






 The Zarda family stands in front of an airplane during the mid-1970s. Mom (Shirley Zarda), Grandma (Elma Greer), Grandpa (Vester Greer), in front - (Donald), sister (Kimberly Zarda), sister (Gara Zarda). Courtesy Of Melissa Zarda










From extreme sports to sharpshooting to computer networking, Zarda’s younger sister, Melissa, described him as a jack-of-all-trades.
“He was incredibly smart. That's the first thing anybody would say,” Melissa Zarda said of her big brother. “I remember playing with cars and trucks, while he would be wiring circuit boards and drawing blueprints as a little kid.”
She said her brother attended Wentworth Military Academy and College in Lexington, Missouri, as a teenager but never finished his training at the military junior college. Shortly after, he left home, picking up odd jobs wherever he could find them.
 Zarda with his late sister, Gara Zarda while attending Wentworth Military Academy. Courtesy Of Melissa Zarda






  








 Melissa Zarda recalled a time when her brother, then in his mid-20s, had been away for several months, and when he finally returned home, he came out as gay to the family.
“It was a non-event,” she laughed, saying everyone had already suspected he was gay and was just waiting for him to come out. “I think he was kind of disappointed nobody had any big questions.”
“We went to the park afterwards, and he was driving, and we came up to a stoplight. I told him to go straight, and he responded, tongue-in-cheek, that he could only go forward,” she added.
Zarda was a “big civil rights proponent” and an active member of Dallas’ LGBTQ community, according to Moore. He was also a bit of a rebel and enjoyed breaking stereotypes and gender norms, Moore added. 
Moore recalled a time when Zarda broke his leg on a jump while in New York. At the hospital, the doctor asked him what color cast he wanted. “Pink,” he responded matter-of-factly. Moore recalled the tall, athletic Zarda hopping around for months with his bright pink cast and matching toenails.

“A WEIGHT HE CARRIED”

By his early 20s, Zarda had decided skydiving was not just a phase, but one of his life’s greatest passions, and he wanted to make a career out of the sport.
“From the moment of his first jump, he was hooked. It was like a switch went off,” Melissa Zarda said. “He sold whatever he could [in order to get] all the certifications, classes, you name it.”
Donald posses for a picture in his skydiving jumpsuit. Courtesy Of Melissa Zarda






 

His love for skydiving and the career he had built around it made the loss of his job at Altitude Express and the ensuing lawsuit even more unbearable, according to his sister. She recalled the numerous times he would cry on the phone talking about it. “It was a weight he carried,” she said.
After his termination, he quickly sunk into a deep depression, according to his sister and Moore. They said he feared he would be unemployable, because the allegations would be the first thing to appear in a web search of his name.
He had been pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aviation management, but he had lost all motivation to complete the degree, according to Moore, who said he pushed Zarda to finish. Even after he did complete his requirements, Moore said he was “discouraged and never applied for his degree.”
“After he died, I made a point to ask his sister to apply for the degree,” Moore added.

"INSANE BASE-JUMPING"

BASE-jumping is an extreme sport where one jumps off a fixed structure or cliff with a parachute or wingsuit. Considered much more dangerous than skydiving from a plane, it is prohibited in most of the U.S.
While Zarda had tried BASE-jumping prior to his termination, Moore said he began aggressively pursuing the fringe sport soon after. Moore said it was his way of coping with the situation, as he believed he had lost the chance to ever work as a skydiving instructor again.
“Had he not been fired, the insane BASE-jumping in Europe never would have happened,” Moore said. 
Before his death, Zarda could be found jumping off rock faces in the Swiss Alps or off snowy mountain tops in Italy. He could no longer find work as a skydiving instructor, and he “had nothing to do anymore,” Moore said. Beginning in 2011, Zarda would go to Europe from June to November on BASE-jumping trips with friends.
Moore said he would tell Zarda that he was playing Russian roulette. “I knew he was going to die from this, and I think he knew he was going to die from this, too,” Moore said.
In October 2014, two weeks before Zarda was to return to the states, Moore got a text from a friend of Zarda’s who was with him in Switzerland on a BASE-jumping trip. “He told me there had been accident,” Moore said. “There is no one who walks away from an accident in BASE- jumping.” 
by Vanessa Chesnut
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February 28, 2018

LGBT Workplace Rights Boosted by You Can't Fire" Skydiving While Gay"




 What’s riskier? Jumping out of an airplane with a stranger’s life in your hands? Or admitting to working that you’re gay?

Donald Zarda could have told you. The New York skydiving instructor lost his job in 2010 after mentioning his sexuality. Now, in an important ruling, a federal appeals court has ruled that Zarda’s firing was illegal, and that federal civil rights law bans employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

This is disappointing news, no doubt, to U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte, but encouraging to anyone who believes it’s fundamentally wrong to be able to hire, fire, promote and demote workers solely because of their sexual orientation. 

instead invented by Teads
Pittenger, a Republican, argued in 2014 that employers should be free to fire people because they are gay. He called it one of “the freedoms we enjoy” as Americans. “We don’t want to micromanage people’s lives and businesses,” Pittenger said. He added: “Government intervention is not the best solution for matters of the heart.” 

Congress had disagreed 50 years earlier, passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Its Title VII bars workplace discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” The 2nd Circuit court in New York ruled 10-3 on Monday that Title VII also protects gay workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The court had three different rationales: First, that firing people for their sexual orientation is essentially firing them for their sex, which Title VII prohibits. Zarda wouldn’t have been fired for being attracted to men had he been a different gender.

Second, the Supreme Court has ruled that people can’t be fired for failing to live up to their gender’s stereotypes, and the 2nd Circuit said Zarda was.

Finally, courts have long held that a person can’t be fired because of the race of those they associate with, such as firing a black person who associates with white people. The same holds for gender, the court ruled, and Zarda couldn’t be fired for associating with another man.

The New York court is the second federal appeals court (the other is the 7th Circuit, in Chicago, last year) to rule this way. The 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled last year that Title VII does not cover sexual orientation. That disagreement among appeals courts makes it possible the U.S. Supreme Court will settle the matter sooner than later.

We hope it does. And using the 2nd Circuit’s logic, a high court ruling could make sexual orientation a protected class not only for employment but for housing, education and other areas. Polls and the Observer’s reporting have found that despite some people’s contention otherwise, discrimination against gays is not uncommon.

A strong majority of Americans believe employers should not be able to discriminate against LGBT workers. It’s a matter of time before that’s settled law, and Monday’s ruling was another big, welcome step toward that day.

Out in NJ

A federal appeals court in New York ruled that it is illegal for employers to discriminate against their workers based on sexual orientation. The decision is a blow to the Justice Department under President Trump, which had chosen to wade into a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former New York sky diving instructor. The Justice Department had argued last year that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not cover sexual orientation in the workplace.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit becomes the second appeals court to rule that the Civil Rights Law, which prohibits bias in the workplace based on “race, color, religion, sex or national original” should also extend to sexual orientation. An appellate court in Atlanta ruled differently. Jeff Sessions, a Trump appointee, heads the Justice Department and has made his anti-LGBT sentiments no secret.
The Second Circuit ruled 10-3 in the case of Donald Zarda, a sky diving instructor who was fired from Altitude Express in 2010. Zarda had revealed his sexuality to a female client while preparing for a tandem jump as the woman seemed to be uncomfortable with being strapped so tightly to him. Her boyfriend took exception, complaining to the school about the comment, and he was fired. He filed suit on the grounds that Altitude Express violated Title VII and initially had two courts in New York rule against him, including a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit.

December 30, 2017

Two Bakers Loose Appeals of The Cake and Fine($135k) For Refusing to Bake for Gay Couples


 

 

The Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a ruling — and a $135,000 fine — that two Gresham bakery owners discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to make them a wedding cake, violating Oregon law. 

The courts did reverse a portion of the Bureau of Labor and Industries decision that said Melissa and Aaron Klein violated Oregon law by communicating their intent to discriminate against same-sex couples in the future. 

The appeals court decision, released Thursday, came almost nine months after attorneys representing the Kleins and the attorneys for the Bureau of Labor and Industries argued before the three-judge panel. 

It came years after Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer first stopped at the Kleins' custom-cake bakery. 

The couple had no idea a simple item on their pre-wedding to-do list would end in such controversy. 

They decided to order a cake from Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a Gresham bakery recommended by a relative, for their upcoming commitment ceremony. Rachel Bowman-Cryer and her mother stopped by the shop for a tasting and to order the cake.  


When Aaron Klein found out the cake was for two brides, he told Bowman-Cryer he and his wife did not make cakes for same-sex weddings because of their religious beliefs. 

According to a brief filed by the civil rights organization Lambda Legal, when Bowman-Cryer's mother returned to the bakery to reason with Aaron Klein, he called her daughter and her soon-to-be daughter-in-law "abominations."

The Bowman-Cryers filed a complaint with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, alleging they were denied public accommodation of the Kleins' business services because of their sexual orientation. 

BOLI investigators determined the refusal constituted unlawful discrimination and ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 in damages to the Bowman-Cryers.

The Kleins balked at first, then paid the $135,000 and vowed to appeal the case. The money was placed in a government account until the appeals process ends.

Oregon bakery owes damages to same-sex couple
First Liberty Institute, a national religious freedom law firm, which represented the Kleins along with Boyden Gray said attorneys will review the decision and consider their options for further appeal with the Kleins. The case could continue to the Oregon Supreme Court if they file a petition within 35 days. 

Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of First Liberty Institute, said they are disappointed in the ruling. 

“Freedom of expression for ourselves should require freedom of expression for others," Shackelford said. "Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided that Aaron and Melissa Klein are not entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free speech.”

A similar case, involving a Colorado bakery, went before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month. 

Paul Thompson, attorney for the Bowman-Cryers, said he will be watching that case closely.  

The Oregon Court of Appeals listened to an appeal Thursday, Mar. 2, 2017, in Salem by the lawyer for Melissa and Aaron Klein, the Oregon bakers who were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2013. The couple that sued the Kleins listened during the hearing.  

When Thompson contacted the couple Thursday morning, he said they were elated but still processing the news.

"We're really happy with the outcome," he said. "It's a great day for equality in Oregon."

The Bowman-Cryers held a commitment ceremony in June 2013 and were married in May 2014, four days after same-sex marriage became legal in Oregon.

The legal battle made national and international headlines.

According to the Oregonian/OregonLive, donations poured in for the Kleins, they campaigned in Iowa with Ted Cruz at "Rally for Religious Liberty," and C. Boyden Gray, the former White House Counsel for George H.W. Bush, offered to represent the couple for free. 

Since their complaint became public, the Bowman-Cryers have received countless harassing messages calling them evil and "the dumb lesbians who ruined those Christian bakers' lives," according to Lambda Legal's brief. 

The Bowman-Cryers said the case was not simply about a wedding cake, their marriage or their wedding. It is about whether it is OK for a business to refuse to serve people because of the owner's religious beliefs.

The couple said they moved to Oregon because the state stands strong for equality and they are proud to raise their daughters where people believe in dignity and respect.

"Today’s ruling sends a strong signal that Oregon remains open to all," BOLI Commissioner Brad Avakian said in a statement. 

The shop front for Sweet Cakes by Melissa closed in 2013, but the couple continued to run the business out of their home until 2016, when it closed permanently.

"We lost everything we loved and worked so hard to build," Melissa Klein said following oral arguments before the Oregon Court of Appeals in March.

Through tears, Klein said she poured her heart and passion into each cake and designed each one to fit each couple perfectly. As a devout Christian, she incorporated her faith into every aspect of her life, especially her work. 

The Oregon Court of Appeals listened to an appeal Thursday, March 2, 2017, in Salem by the lawyer for Melissa and Aaron Klein (center), the Oregon bakers who were fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2013. 

"I was happy to serve this couple in the past for another event and would be happy to serve them again, but I couldn't participate in the ceremony that goes against what I believe," she said. 

Klein said she feels like the government violated her family's religious beliefs and told her what to believe. 

During oral arguments before the Oregon Court of Appeals in March, the Kleins' attorney Adam Gustafson said forcing someone to participate in a same-sex wedding violated their free speech and religious freedom.

Oregon court hears Sweet Cakes bakery owners' appeal
The law cannot compel art, he said. Simply put, Melissa's custom cake-baking was her art and should be fully protected by the First Amendment.

The Kleins did not discriminate based on sexual orientation; rather, they chose not to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony because they believe marriage should only exist between a man and a woman, Gustafson said.

Judge Joel DeVore asked whether it would be discrimination if a baker refused to make a cake for an interracial couple based on religious belief.

"Race is different from sexual orientation," Gustafson said, adding that laws barring interracial marriages were proxies for racial bias and white supremacy.

The First Amendment also protects the right to be free from compelled speech. The state is required to extend an exemption for religious hardship to protect "decent and honorable" people like the Kleins, he said.

Carson Whitehead, the assistant attorney general with the Oregon Department of Justice, represented BOLI. He argued the case turns on two simple facts: The Kleins refused to provide the exact same service for a same-sex couple that they would with a heterosexual couple, and the denial of services was based on sexual orientation.

The Kleins denied the couple service before there was even a discussion of an inscription. Whitehead said this constituted a refusal of services, not compelled speech.

"Cake baking isn't pure speech," Whitehead said, adding that cakes serve all kinds of functions for all kinds of reasons.

He also argued that the damages awarded to the couple were reasonable considering the emotional distress they experienced. 

The appeals court ruled that the Oregon law barring discrimination was clear and the Kleins violated it by refusing service based on the couple's sexual orientation.

The judges also stated the Kleins' attorney failed to show that wedding cake constituted "fully protected speech or art." At the most, the business was a combination of expressive and non-expressive elements. Therefore, the Kleins' First Amendment rights were not violated. 

The court also ruled the $135,000 fine was reasonable and consistent with past BOLI rulings on emotional distress. 

After the arguments in March, the Bowman-Cryers left the courthouse in tears. The Kleins gathered with their attorneys outside. 

"I'm thankful we actually got to have our day in court," Aaron Klein said. "Man's court is going to do what man's court is going to do. The honest truth is we just seek to serve the Lord."

In a statement issued Thursday, the Bowman-Cryers said now all Oregonians can go into any store and expect to be treated like any other person. 

"It does not matter how you were born or who you love," they said. "With this ruling, the Court of Appeals has upheld the long-standing idea that discrimination has no place in America."

 By Whitney Woodworth: wmwoodwort@statesmanjournal.com, call 503-399-6884 or follow on Twitter @wmwoodworth


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