“The right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment outweighs the State’s interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace.”
A California judge has ruled that a homophobic baker has every right to refuse to make wedding cakes for gay couples.
Last August Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, told Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio that making a cake for their upcoming wedding would go against her religious beliefs.
“Everyone is God’s creation and I love everyone,” Miller said. “but there are certain things that violate my conscience, and my conscience will not allow me to participate in things that I feel are wrong. Most of what that’s based on is scripture.”
The couple complained to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), who brought the case to court.
In December, DFEH asked Judge David Lampe to issue a temporary restraining order banning Miller from selling anything she was unwilling to sell to all her customers. ’
Now Lampe has denied the order, claiming he needs to hear Miller’s side of the story.
“The right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment outweighs the State’s interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace,” said Lampe in his ruling. “[The] Rodriguez-Del Rios plan to engage in speech. They plan a celebration to declare the validity of their marital union and their enduring love for one another. The State asks this court to compel Miller against her will and religion to allow her artistic expression in celebration of marriage to be co-opted to promote the message desired by same-sex marital partners, and with which Miller disagrees.”
He made a distinction between denying service to gay customers, versus selling them a particular product.
Lampe’s ruling protects Miller until June, when the next hearing for the case is scheduled. Miller’s lawyers from the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund are looking to move for a dismissal based on the strength of the ruling. But the Rodriguez-Del Rios’ legal team says their fight, which echoes the Masterpiece Cakeshop showdown now at the Supreme Court isn’t over.
“We are disappointed but not surprised by ruling against the preliminary injunction,” attorney Patricia Ziegler-Lopez told the Bakersfield Californian. “Bakersfield and Kern County in general is very conservative, and that unfortunately includes some of the judges. But our fight against bigotry and discrimination is only beginning.”