News (USA)

Judge rules Christian baker was allowed to refuse to sell cake to lesbian couple

Cathy Miller
Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery in California, is being sued by the state for discriminating against gay couples. Photo: Screenshot/KGET 17

A judge in California has ruled that a bakery owner had the right to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because it violated her religious beliefs.

In his decision, Kern County Superior Court Judge Eric Bradshaw said that the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing had failed to prove that Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller had intentionally discriminated against the couple under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.

“Miller’s only motivation, at all times, was to act consistent with her sincere Christian beliefs about what the Bible teaches regarding marriage,” Bradshaw wrote. “That motivation was not unreasonable, or arbitrary, nor did it emphasize irrelevant differences or perpetuate stereotypes.”

Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio first filed a complaint against Miller with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in 2017 after she refused to make a wedding cake for the couple. Lawyers for the state brought a lawsuit against Miller. In early 2018, Superior Court Judge David Lampe ruled that Miller had acted within her rights under the First Amendment. That decision was later vacated by the 5th District Court of Appeal, sending the case back to Kern County Superior Court.

“I’m hoping that in our community we can grow together,” Miller, who was represented by the anti-LGBTQ Thomas More Society, told the Bakersfield Californian following Friday’s ruling by Bradshaw. “And we should understand that we shouldn’t push any agenda against anyone else.”

A spokesperson for the DFEH told the paper that the department had not determined what to do next following the decision. But the Rodriguez-Del Rios said they expect an appeal.

“Of course we’re disappointed, but not surprised,” Eileen said. “We anticipate that our appeal will have a different result.”

The decision comes as the Supreme Court is set to hear another case involving the conflict between so-called religious liberties and anti-discrimination laws. 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis involves a Christian web designer in Colorado who has preemptively sued the state’s government, saying that its anti-discrimination law violates her First Amendment right to deny her services to same-sex couples due to her religious beliefs. LGBTQ rights advocates say that the case could hollow out LGBTQ protections by allowing any employee to deny service to LGBTQ people.

In 2018, the Supreme Court heard a similar case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which involved a cake shop owner who refused to make a cake for a same-sex marriage because it violated his rights to free speech and religious freedom. In its decision, the court ruled narrowly in favor of the cakeshop, saying that it hadn’t gotten a fair and impartial hearing in lower decisions and dodging the larger question about whether it should be legal to discriminate based on speech or religious grounds.

The same Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, is currently challenging a ruling that he once again violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when he refused in 2017 to make a cake for a transgender woman celebrating her transition.

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