Judge sides with California baker over gay wedding cake

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — A California judge has ruled in favor of a bakery owner who refused to bake wedding cakes for a same-sex couple because it violated his 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 lawyers argued that her right to free speech and freedom of expression of religion outweighed the argument that she violated anti-discrimination law. Kern County Superior Court Judge Eric Bradshaw ruled Friday that Miller acted lawfully while respecting his beliefs about what the Bible teaches about marriage.

The ruling was hailed as a First Amendment victory by Miller and his pro bono attorneys at the conservative Thomas More Society.

“Hopefully in our community we can grow together,” Miller told the Bakersfield Californian after the decision. “And we have to understand that we don’t have to push any program against anybody else.”

A spokesperson said the Fair Housing Department is aware of the decision but has not determined what to do next. The couple, Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio, said they expect a call.

“Of course we are disappointed, but not surprised,” Eileen told the newspaper. “We anticipate our appeal will have a different outcome.”

An earlier Kern County Superior Court decision also went Miller’s way, but it was later overturned by the 5th District Court of Appeals, which sent the lawsuit back to the county.

The ruling comes as a Colorado baker is challenging a ruling that he violated that state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition. That baker, Jack Phillips, separately won a partial victory in the U.S. Supreme Court after refusing on religious grounds to bake a gay couple‘s wedding cake a decade ago.

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