This year should reveal whether the state of Oregon acted in hostility towards bakers for not participating in a same-sex wedding celebration.
Aaron and Melissa Klein were back at the Oregon Court of Appeals last week after the Supreme Court of the United States sent their case back down for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court's June 2019 decision.
"The Supreme Court decided Masterpiece on the basic premise of hostility, that government is really required to be neutral, and whenever they display hostility, that's a violation of the Free Exercise Clause," reports attorney Keisha Russell of First Liberty Institute, the religious liberty law firm representing the Kleins, owners of the defunct Sweet Cakes By Melissa bakery. "The Masterpiece case was just decided on that basis alone and never really got to that central issue."
The central issue is whether government can force someone to express a message that he or she does not support -- in this case, the artistic design of a homosexual couple's wedding cake. The Kleins are Christians and believe in traditional marriage.
"The judges in Oregon didn't ask a lot of questions about the merits. The reason being is because since the case was sent back down based on the decision in the Masterpiece case, their focus was to see if there was any hostility in this case," says Russell. "It seems like they at least recognize that there might be some statements here with some actions that display hostility. But the merits of the issue, the idea of whether Aaron and Melissa Klein can be forced to participate in the ceremony, we didn't really get questions along those lines."
The Kleins were fined $135,000 by government officials for their decision to not participate in a same-sex wedding.
"For a small business like that, that's death to a small business," says Russell. "They no longer have their business."
There is no timeline for a decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals. Should the court come down against the Kleins, the couple can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.