California judge rules in favor of baker who refused to make cake for same-sex couple

California judge rules in favor of baker who refused to make cake for same-sex couple
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A California judge has ruled in favor of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Kern County Superior Judge David Lampe ruled that Cathy Miller, the owner of Bakersfield’s Tastries Bakery, can refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

Miller had refused to make a cake for Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio last year. At the time, Miller said baking the cake would go against her beliefs as a Christian, according to the Bakersfield Californian.

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California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing was seeking an injunction on behalf of the Rodriguez-Del Rioses, alleging that Miller had violated state civil rights laws.

The judge denied the request, saying that Miller’s cakes qualified as “artistic expression” and thus were protected under the First Amendment.

“A wedding cake is not just a cake in a Free Speech analysis. It is an artistic expression by the person making it that is to be used traditionally as a centerpiece in the celebration of a marriage,” Lampe wrote in his decision, according to the Bakersfield Californian. “There could not be a greater form of expressive conduct. Here, 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.”

Lampe also said his decision was based on the fact that Miller had to bake the cake.

“The difference here is that the cake in question is not yet baked,” Lampe wrote in the decision. “The State is not petitioning the court to order defendants to sell a cake. The State asks this court to compel Miller to use her talents to design and create a cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of a marital union her religion forbids. For this court to force such compliance would do violence to the essentials of Free Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment.”

Lampe’s ruling only denies the motion for a preliminary injunction against Miller. The case will go to a full trial in June.

Miller’s lawyer, though, said he will seek to have the case immediately dismissed because of Lampe’s decision, according to the Bakersfield Californian.

An attorney for the Rodriguez-Del Rioses, Patricia Ziegler-Lopez, told the Californian that they will continue to fight in the case.

"We are disappointed but not surprised by ruling against the preliminary injunction. Bakersfield and Kern County in general is very conservative and that unfortunately includes some of the judges,” Ziegler-Lopez told the newspaper. “But it’s not over. Our fight against bigotry and discrimination is only beginning.”

The California ruling comes after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a similar case, Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in December. The court is expected to rule on the case this spring.