SANDY — A trio of Oregon lawyers until now has largely handled the nationally publicized legal case for Sandy-area residents Aaron and Melissa Klein and the religious freedom fight surrounding their bakery, Sweet Cakes by Melissa.
But a Texas law firm announced last month that C. Boyden Gray, a former lawyer for President George H.W. Bush, has taken over the case.
As reported by The Oregonian, Gray, working with nonprofit law firm First Liberty Institute, will represent the Kleins at no cost at the Oregon Court of Appeals later this year. First Liberty senior counsel Ken Klukowski told the newspaper that the Kleins asked his firm to take on their case.
First Liberty Institute works with “elite” volunteer lawyers such as Gray on more than 500 legal matters annually, and wins more than 90 percent of its court cases, according to Klukowski. Gray served as White House counsel under Bush from 1989 to 1992 and later served as U.S. ambassador to the European Union. He earlier worked as a law clerk to the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Gray replaces Canby attorney Tyler Smith, who has been assisted by one of his associates, Anna Harmon, as well as by Beaverton attorney Herb Grey.
“Tyler, Anna, and I continue to serve as local counsel for the Kleins,” said Grey. “As we move into the appellate phase, we are excited to partner with Boyden Gray and First Liberty Institute, who are serving as lead appellate counsel. We are pleased to have world-class legal talent joining the team to ensure the Kleins’ rights are protected.”
Three years ago, the Kleins, who at the time operated their bakery in a Gresham storefront, found themselves in a national controversy when they refused — based on their beliefs as Christians — to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The women filed a complaint with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, which last year found the Kleins in violation of antidiscrimination laws. As a result, the Kleins in December paid $136,927 in damages but are appealing the state ruling. Supporters of the Kleins donated more than a half million dollars in online fundraising.
Klukowski described the Kleins’ case as winnable, saying the government has clearly violated fundamental rights of speech and religious liberty.