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CA judge issues final judgment: baker can refuse service to gay couples

California judge makes final judgment to allow baker refusal of service to gay couples.
Photo credit:
Stock photo Wikimedia Commons

BAKERSFIELD, California --  A judge in the ironically named city of Bakersfield has issued a final judgment in favor of Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller; she can refuse service to customers based on her religious beliefs.

In February Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe, on a motion for preliminary injunction, allowed Miller to continue to deny customers until the case went to full trial reports Bakersfield.com. That final judgment was issued on May 1. 

Miller was represented by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, her lawyers are asking for $438,000 in legal fees. Although California will likely appeal the decision.

Judge Lempe came to his judgment based on the First Amendment.

“The State cannot succeed on the facts presented as a matter of law. The right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment outweighs the State’s interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace,” Lampe wrote in his ruling in February. “The right of freedom of thought guaranteed by the First Amendment includes the right to speak, and the right to refrain from speaking. Sometimes the most profound protest is silence.”

In August 2017, Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio were planning a wedding and sought Tastries Bakery to make their cake. Miller refused, telling the couple her religious beliefs would not allow it.

“Everyone is God’s creation and I love everyone,” Miller said in the past. “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 Del Rio’s filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), taking the case to court accusing Miller of violating the Unruh Civil Rights Act which prohibits refusal of service to patrons based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

Lempe basically stated in February that Miller’s First Amendment Rights trumped the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

 He said Miller's rights were protected under artistic expression.

“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 the ruling. “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.”

Although he sided with the defendant in this case, Judge Lempe warned that in other circumstances a business cannot discriminate. The difference being between an already made product as opposed to one that needs to be created artistically.

“A retail tire shop may not refuse to sell a tire because the owner does not want to sell tires to same sex couples. There is nothing sacred or expressive about a tire. No artist, having placed their work for public sale, may refuse to sell for an unlawful discriminatory purpose. No baker may place their wares in a public display case, open their shop, and then refuse to sell because of race, religion, gender, or gender identification,” Lampe wrote.

Today, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund wrote of their excitement regarding Lempe's final decision

"The judgment now closes the case in Superior Court, but the government can still appeal the decision to the state court of appeals. If forced to comply with the government’s request, Cathy would have faced the possibility of losing her bakery. The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) is defending Cathy at no charge."