AUSTIN – Leading a coalition that includes 11 states, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to review the case of the two Oregon bakers last month.
The reason behind the filing is to protect the bakers' constitutionally protected rights, especially those linked to freedom of religion.
As stated in a release from Paxton's office made public Nov. 26, "the state of Oregon forced Aaron and Melissa Klein to shut down their business, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, after declining to create a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony in 2013 because of their deeply held religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 in compensatory damages for violating the state’s public accommodations law. The couple filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to overturn the state of Oregon’s ruling."
In addition to Texas, the other states in the coalition are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.
"This case is about the freedom of artistic expression that should be protected by government rather than threatened by it," the brief states. "As part of our fixed constellation of individual rights, no government—even one with the best of intentions—may commandeer the artistic talents of its citizens by ordering them to create expression with which the government agrees but the artist does not."
The document points out that "our nation has long protected individual rights in furtherance of 'a tolerant citizenry,'" while also reminds that "the court held that the Constitution does not allow states to prohibit same-sex marriage, while simultaneously directing that the free-expression and free-exercise rights of private individuals who disagree with same-sex marriage should be 'given proper protection.'”
Paxton previously led two coalitions of states in 2017 that filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, also regarding religious freedom.
In August 2017, 14 states filed a brief to defend the rights of a Washington state florist who refused to make a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding, claiming beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The Washington Supreme Court ordered that the florist "must provide a custom floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding," a press release stated, under threat of $2 million in fines and fees.
In September 2017, Paxton led a coalition of 20 states in filing a brief to uphold the rights of a Colorado cake artist who appealed a state court decision that "he lost after he declined to create a cake for a same-sex marriage because of his deeply held religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman," a release about the case said.