Supreme Court sends same-sex wedding cake case back down to lower court

The Supreme Court on Monday said that it was sending another case over a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple down to a lower court for reconsideration. 

The justices, in an unsigned order, said that the Court of Appeals for Oregon should reconsider the case after the Supreme Court's narrow ruling last year in favor of a Colorado baker who similarly refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple.

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Monday's order means that the justices avoid having to rule on a divisive case that pits claims of religious liberty against allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court's order tosses out a 2017 Oregon Court of Appeals opinion that ruled against the baker, Sweetcakes by Melissa, and upheld a $135,000 fine against the business.

“This is a victory for Aaron and Melissa Klein and for religious liberty for all Americans,” said Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO and chief counsel to First Liberty, which represented the Kleins, in a statement Monday after the court's ruling. “The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government. The message from the Court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”

The justices last year had narrowly held in favor of the baker in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, finding in a 7-2 ruling that a Colorado state commission had violated the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution when it penalized the baker for breaking the state’s public accommodations law.

However, the court is also likely to soon face another decision on whether to hear a similar case: The justices last year had sent back a case on whether a Washington state florist had discriminated against a same-sex couple down to a lower court to determine whether the courts had treated the case fairly.

The Washington Supreme Court earlier this month upheld the ruling against the florist, Arlene's Flowers. But the florist, represented by the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, has promised to present the case once again to the Supreme Court.

Updated at 12:54 p.m.