A California Judge Allows a Baker to Discriminate Against a Lesbian Couple Who Wanted a Wedding Cake

On Monday, a trial court in California’s Central Valley blamed a lesbian couple for the discrimination they experienced when they tried to buy a wedding cake. That twisted reasoning ignores the very real harms that occur when people are denied the freedom to participate in public life.

Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio tried to buy a cake from the bakery Tastries, but the owner Cathy Miller turned them away when they arrived for their scheduled cake tasting on Aug. 26, 2017, based on her religious objections to same-sex marriage. Miller instead referred them to a different bakery, even though Tastries regularly sells wedding cakes to heterosexual couples.

The court found that the Constitution creates a right to discriminate, in part by grossly minimizing the harm that the couple experienced when they were rejected. In ruling for the bakery, Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe said:

If anything, the harm to [the bakery owner] is the greater harm, because it carries significant economic consequences. When one feels injured, insulted or angered by the words or expressive conduct of others, the harm is many times self-inflicted.

Blaming Eileen and Mireya for the discrimination they experienced that day at the bakery is outrageous. It’s hard to fault people who experience injury when told they are not good enough to be served because of who they are. But the court didn’t stop there.

According to the judge, “the fact that Rodriguez-Del Rios feel they will suffer indignity from Miller’s choice is not sufficient to deny constitutional protection.” Judge Lampe went on to say that an "interest in preventing dignitary harms . . . is not a compelling basis for infringing free speech.”  That is just not true. Putting aside the bakery’s contention that freedom of speech creates a right to refuse equal service, the Supreme Court has long recognized that preventing harm to personal dignity that occurs with discrimination is one of the core purposes of our anti-discrimination laws.

In a challenge to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of federal public accommodations law to ensure human dignity. Justice Arthur Goldberg, in a concurring opinion, wrote: “Discrimination is not simply dollars and cents, hamburgers and movies; it is the humiliation, frustration, and embarrassment that a person must surely feel when he is told that he is unacceptable as a member of the public.”

And in Roberts v. Jaycees, the Supreme Court recognized that discrimination — in that case, turning women away from membership in an organization — “deprives persons of their individual dignity and denies society the benefits of wide participation in political, economic, and cultural life.”

All of us should have the freedom to walk into a business open to the public and know that we will be served. Fearing that you will be turned away because of who you are changes the way you live your life, in real and damaging ways. It forces you to hide who you are. It takes away one's liberty to live an authentic life.

If upheld on appeal, the recent ruling would create a constitutional right to discriminate. It would mean that LGBTQ people, even those who live in states like California with laws against discrimination, must go back to being fearful of embarrassment and hostility when walking into a business. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering this same question in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case right now. Let's hope the justices will see the bakery’s arguments for what they really are — an impermissible attempt to use a claim of speech and religion rights to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and potentially others, across the country.

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Anonymous

That judge is an ass whole

Anonymous

I mean clearly they don't deserve gay money i mean come on why would you want to pay for something from someone people that don't think you deserve the same rights as anyone else ? I mean (screw that bakery shop)

Randomutation

This wasn't discrimination. The sexual orientation of the customers did not matter. The baker did not deny service because the customers were gay. The baker denied service because the requested service would have involved making a cake that expressed a message that the baker objected to.

Anonymous

Wrong. The owner is required to follow the laws that govern her business. If she isn't capable of that, then she should close her business and open a church where she can have all the white supremacist bake sales she wants to.

Randomutation

@Anonymous The baker did not break the law. She did not deny service because the customers were gay.

Randomutation

@anonymous It's not against the law to deny service to customers in a protected class, unless you deny service BECAUSE they are in that class. The baker did not deny service because the customers were gay.

CHOT

Some people are inherent haters and will never change

Proud Democrat

This is a pathetic ruling. The judge is an embarrassment to California and should probably move to a facist red state where civil rights are trampled constantly by right wing nut jobs. Clearly he'll fit it nicely there.

Anonymous

Reverse the story in your head, and see if it works, all you folks who think this is a right-thinking judge and a freedom of speech case.

A SAGA person who is a baker refuses to make a wedding cake for a Christian couple based on the fact that he or she believes Christians to be dangerous creatures that shouldn't breed and therefore they shouldn't marry.

Now what?

DVRC

"Christian" is such a loosely used term these days. If the bakery owners were truly Christians, they would cast aside their prejudice and hate and attempt to be more Christ-like.

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