A baker who declined to create a cake for a US gay wedding ceremony has won her case, with the judge saying her work is the highest form of artistic expression.
Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California, had said making a cake for the same-sex ceremony would go against her Christian beliefs.
The lesbian couple complained to the State, but Judge David Lampe said the law on freedom of expression supports the baker.
Judge Lampe wrote: “A wedding cake is not just a cake in free speech analysis. It is an artistic expression by the person making it that is to be used traditionally as a centerpiece in the celebration of a marriage.
“There could not be a greater form of expressive conduct.”
A lawyer for the lesbian couple criticised the ruling, and said their “fight against bigotry and discrimination is only beginning”.
The case began in August last year when Miller told Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio that she could not provide them with a cake for the vow exchange and reception. She referred them to another bakery.
But they filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which said the law on free speech did not apply because the couple had not asked for any words on the cake.
In the ensuing legal case at the Superior Court of California, Judge Lampe acknowledged Miller will not “design or create any custom cake that expresses or celebrates matters that she finds offend her heartfelt religious principles”.
Lord and Saviour
He said her actions were supported by the law, but warned that his ruling should not be misinterpreted.
“A retail tire shop may not refuse to sell a tire because the owner does not want to sell tires to same sex couples. There is nothing sacred or expressive about a tire.”
Miller, who made it clear that she served all people but could not be part of a “celebration that goes against my Lord and Saviour”, welcomed the ruling.
The case has echoes of Jack Phillips’ case which is currently before the US Supreme Court.
Phillips lost his initial court case in 2013, when a ruling found that he had violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by declining to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.