BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — A California judge has ruled in favor of a bakery owner who refused to make wedding cakes for a same-sex couple because it violated her Christian beliefs.
The state Department of Fair Housing and Employment had sued Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, arguing that owner Cathy Miller intentionally discriminated against the couple in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.
Miller’s attorneys argued that his right to free speech and free expression of religion outweighed the argument that he violated anti-discrimination law. Kern County Superior Court Judge Eric Bradshaw ruled Friday that Miller acted lawfully while he defended his beliefs about what the Bible teaches about marriage.
The decision was hailed as a First Amendment victory by Miller and his pro bono attorneys from the conservative Thomas More Society.
“I hope that in our community we can grow together,” Miller told the Bakersfield Californian after the ruling. “And we must understand that we must not push any agenda against anyone else.”
A spokesman said the fair housing department was aware of the ruling but had not determined what to do next. The couple, Eileen and Mireya Rodríguez-Del Rio, said they are awaiting an appeal.
“Of course we are disappointed, but not surprised,” Eileen told the newspaper. “We anticipate that our appeal will have a different outcome.”
An earlier decision in Kern County Superior Court also went the way of Miller, but was later overturned by the Fifth District Court of Appeals, which sent the lawsuit back to the county.
The decision comes as a Colorado baker is challenging a ruling that he violated that state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to bake a cake to celebrate gender transition. That baker, Jack Phillips, separately won a partial victory in the US Supreme Court after refusing on religious grounds to bake a gay couple’s wedding cake a decade ago.
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