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Forcing bakers to make gay wedding cakes violates free speech, California judge rules

A Kern County judge recently ruled that the state could not force a California bakery owner to bake a cake that would go against her beliefs. The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a civil rights case over a Colorado baker's refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A ruling in favor of a California baker who refused to design a wedding cake for a gay couple produced a potentially significant distinction that could impact future similar cases.

Kern County Judge David Lampe ruled that the state could not force Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery, to bake a cake that would go against her beliefs, according to Kern Golden Empire.

“For this court to force such compliance would do violence to the essentials of Free Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment,” the judge said in the ruling.

How did he come to that decision?

A key factor in the decision was that the cake being requested by the couple was a custom job that was not regularly sold by the bakery.

The implication is that if the couple had requested a cake that was on display and routinely sold to other customers, it would be discriminatory to refuse to sell it to a gay couple on the basis of religious beliefs.

Here’s more from the ruling: “A wedding cake is not just a wedding cake in Free Speech analysis. It is an artistic expression by the person making it that is to be used traditionally as centerpiece in the celebration of marriage. There could not be greater form of expressive conduct.”

The judge also noted that Miller recommended the couple go to a competitor to get their cake.

“Furthermore, here the State minimizes the fact that Miller has provided for an alternative means for potential customers to receive the product they desire through the services of another talent. The fact that Rodriguez-Del Rios (the couple) feel they will suffer indignity from Miller’s choice is not sufficient to deny constitutional protection,” the judge wrote.

What was the baker’s reaction?

“Our bakery and our family feel very blessed that the judge ruled in our favor,” Miller said. “Not to say that we want to be discriminatory, but we do need to stand up for our religious freedom and our freedom of speech.”

How did the couple respond?

The couple that sued Miller has not released a statement yet, but their attorney claimed to not be surprised by the ruling.

“This is only the beginning. It is just one battle in the war against discrimination,” the couple’s attorney said.

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