A bakery in Portland, Oregon, has been ordered to pay $135,000 in damages to a lesbian couple for refusing to bake their wedding cake more than two years ago.
The Bureau of Labor and Industries determined that the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa caused emotional suffering to Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer when they said they would not bake a cake for the couple over religious objections to gay marriage, which was legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court late last month in a landmark ruling.
"This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business's refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal," Oregon labor commissioner Brad Avakian said in the final order.
Oregon is one of several states that currently have laws protecting the LGBT community from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations. The 2007 anti-discrimination legislation provides some religious exceptions, but it remains illegal for businesses to refuse service to potential customers based on their sexual orientation.
The case is one of a handful of high-profile incidents at the heart of the ongoing debate between religious freedom advocates and anti-discrimination campaigners.
A wave of public support in favor of gay marriage has spurred some states and localities to enact special legislation to protect religious freedom, while others have moved for further protections for their LGBT communities.
Last week, Indiana became the latest state to enact its controversial religious freedom law, which for the past eight months has divided the state and nation over its potential to allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Mass protests and threats to boycott the state forced Indiana lawmakers to make amendments to the original bill after the governor signed it in March. The amendments sought to prohibit businesses from using religious freedom as an excuse to not provide services, goods, facilities, or accommodations to specific groups, and to quell the controversy the original bill had created.
Since then, at least half a dozen local governments in the state have added "sexual orientation and gender identity" protections to anti-discrimination ordinances, the Chicago Tribune reported.
While the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling was met by wide public support, a number of county clerks across the country have refused to provide marriage licenses to gay or any couples in protest, opening themselves up to lawsuits. The backlash against the decision has also involved conservative politicians and religious groups like CatholicVote, which released an anti-gay marriage video this week that has triggered anger and mockery on social media.
The video, titled "You Are Not Alone," seemingly mimics films that encourage gay people to come out. It has drawn sharp criticism from activists, and has already spurred a satirical "alternate version" that features a man saying, "I happen to think the races should be segregated. Maybe like Asian City or Blackland."
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.