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California judge: Baker can refuse service to same-sex couple

The case echoes many elements of the current Supreme Court case

California judge: Baker can refuse service to same-sex couple
This religious baker won her case. | Photo: ABC 23 Video

A California judge ruled that forcing a baker to provide service to a same-sex couple against religious objections violates her right to free speech.

Superior Court Judge David R. Lampe wrote his decision late Monday night. In it, he deemed that ‘a wedding cake is not just a cake in a Free Speech analysis’.

Instead, in this regard, it is an ‘artistic expression by the person making it that is to be used traditionally as a centerpiece in the celebration of marriage’.

Lampe continued: ‘The State asks this court to compel Miller [the baker] 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.’

His ruling, therefore, contended that California’s anti-discrimination law, the Unruh Act, does not apply to this scenario.

A brief history

This case began when couple Eileen and Mireya Rodriquez-Del Rio wanted to buy a cake from Tastries bakery in October 2017 for their wedding vows.

Though they wanted no words or anything on the cake, owner Cathy Miller still refused them. Due to her religions beliefs, and not condoning same-sex marriage, she sent their order to another bakery.

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sided with the couple.

Lampe, however, denied the order forcing Miller to make the cake. He argued a wedding ‘could not be a greater form of expressive conduct’.

He said for the state to force Miller to create something ‘with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of a marital union her religion forbids’ would to ‘violence’ to Free Speech.

How will the Supreme Court rule?

The case is extremely similar to that of Masterpiece Cakeshop, which the US Supreme Court is currently debating.

The arguments in that case are akin to that of this California case. With Masterpiece, lawyers are also arguing that forcing bakery owner Jack Phillips to comply violates his First Amendment rights.

The Supreme Court won’t hand down its ruling until late spring.

As for the California case, the state agency and couple will likely appeal Lampe’s decision.

Religious exemptions are a threat

GSN spoke to Dave Garcia, Director of Policy and Community Building at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

‘First of all, we’re disappointed,’ he said about the decision. ‘This goes far beyond cake.

‘The bottom line is, these individuals have business licenses. They’re not baking cakes for their church bake sale. When you have a business license, we make certain compromises in the public square. You have to abide by some of those compromises. You make an agreement to serve the public.’

Garcia also doesn’t put any stock into Lampe’s argument that a wedding is a form of ‘expressive conduct’.

He finished by saying: ‘The religious exemption is the single greatest threat to our community.’

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