A Christian baker wouldn’t serve a lesbian couple. Here’s why a judge just ruled in her favor
A California judge ruled that Cathy Miller of Tastries Bakery did not violate anti-discrimination law
Does refusing to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple amount to unlawful discrimination? A judge said no last week when ruling in favor of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California.
Kern County Superior Court Judge Eric Bradshaw said bakery owner Cathy Miller’s decision not to provide a cake to a lesbian couple stemmed from her sincerely held beliefs about marriage, rather than from “discriminatory intent.” He noted that Miller had referred the women to another store, rather than simply turning them away, Bakersfield Now reported.
The case originated in 2017, when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, on behalf of Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio, alleged that Miller had violated civil rights protections. The baker initially won at the county level but an appeals court later vacated that decision and sent the case back for reconsideration, which led to Friday’s ruling, according to The Associated Press.
The Bakersfield case has much in common with many other legal battles across the country, including a recent Supreme Court case featuring a Christian baker from Colorado. Amid the rise of same-sex weddings, policymakers have struggled to sort out whether business owners who, for religious reasons, object to such marriages should be exempted from LGBTQ nondiscrimination law.
In the Colorado baker case, the Supreme Court sidestepped that overall question and focused instead on the actions of Colorado officials, as the Deseret News reported at the time. Justices ruled 7-2 that the baker, Jack Phillips, had not been treated fairly during the legal proceedings.
“When the Colorado Civil Rights Commission considered this case, it did not do so with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, which was released on June 4, 2018.
The Supreme Court is revisiting the rights of wedding-related business owners this term in a case that centers on a Colorado website designer.
Like Miller, the designer, Lorie Smith, says that her religious beliefs prevent her from creating wedding websites for same-sex couples. But the justices will approach the case from the angle of free speech, rather than religious freedom, as the Deseret News previously reported.
Miller’s case in California could eventually make it to the Supreme Court as well, if it continues to drag on. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has not yet announced if it will appeal Friday’s ruling in favor of the baker, but Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio told the Bakersfield Californian that she expects an appeal.
“Of course we’re disappointed, but not surprised,” she said. “We anticipate that our appeal will have a different result.”