By Bob Smietana
A baker has to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples—but she does not have to bake them a cake, a California court has ruled.
“No artist, having placed their work for public sale, may refuse to sell for an unlawful discriminatory reason,” the court said in its ruling. “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.”
However, things are different with special orders, the court ruled.
“The difference here is that the cake is not yet baked,” wrote Judge David Lampe.
Lampe ruled that Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California, did not violate state non-discrimination laws when she refused to make a wedding cake for Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio, a same-sex couple.
The couple visited Tastries last summer and asked Miller to design a wedding cake for them. Miller told them she could not do so—but referred them to another baker.
The couple filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. That agency then sued Miller, saying she had violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which bans “all arbitrary and intentional discrimination by a business establishment.”
“My business is owned by God,” Miller told a local television station last summer. “We work for the Lord and my convictions and my conscience won’t allow me to participate in a lot of things like I’ve turned all kinds of orders away.”
Earlier this year, Lampe denied a request for a preliminary injunction that would have required Miller to bake a cake for the couple.
Lampe based his final ruling on both free speech and religious freedom principles.
“The Unruh Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, as well as sexual orientation,” he wrote.
The couple will likely appeal, according to the Californian.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this year in a similar case from Colorado.
That case pits Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakes in Lakewood, Colorado, against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Phillips stopped baking custom wedding cakes in 2014 after the civil rights commission ruled he’d discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to make a wedding cake for them.
“Will this big, diverse country of ours still have room for me and the millions of others who share my beliefs about marriage?” Phillips asked in a recent essay for the Washington Post.
A third of Americans say small business should be able to deny services to same-sex couples because of religious objections, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. Sixty percent of Americans disagree.
However, more than half of white evangelical Protestants (53 percent) and Mormons say businesses should be allowed to deny service based on religious objections. By contrast, a third or less of all other religious groups agree.
- Growing Share of Evangelicals Supports Same-Sex Marriage
- When Sex and Religion Conflict, What Should Win?
- Gay Marriage Ruling Requires the Church Maintain its Mission, Refocus its Attention
- U.S. Census Will Ask About Same-Sex Marriages
BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer at Facts & Trends.