U.S. Supreme Court sends lesbian wedding cake dispute back to lower court

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, U.S., June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Erin Schaff/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling against the owners of an Oregon bakery who refused based on their Christian beliefs to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in another case pitting gay rights against religious rights.

The justices sent the case back to the Oregon Court of Appeals so it can take a second look at its ruling against the bakery owners in light of the Supreme Court’s June 2018 ruling in a strikingly similar case from Colorado.

In December 2017 – before the Supreme Court decision last year in favor of a Denver-area Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple – the Oregon court had let stand a lower state court ruling against Melissa and Aaron Klein.

They ran a bakery called Sweetcakes by Melissa in Gresham, a city just east of Portland, and were contesting Oregon’s a $135,000 penalty for violating a state anti-discrimination law by spurning the couple, Rachel Bowman-Cryer and Laurel Bowman-Cryer.

The Kleins argued that the state fine violated the their rights of free speech and free exercise of religion under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

In the narrow ruling last year, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for two men, citing his Christian faith.

But that ruling left major legal questions unresolved that the court could have decided if it had taken up the Oregon case.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham

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