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

just shut up you liberal reject

Randomutation

The baker did not deny service because the customers were gay. So why should the baker deny service if the customers are "divorcees, adulterers, liars" ? The baker only denied service because the requested service would involve making a cake that expressed as message the baker objcted to.

Anonymous

As a business owner you can as the sign says “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”. Walmart tells people to leave their stores for all kinds of reasons including for things they’re wearing so grow people. We live in world where people are raising candy ass kids. Everyone wants special rights. If I were gay why would I want to buy a cake from someone who I knew wasn’t a gay fan. I suppose if a bookstore refused to order a book of a gay topic for someone even though they regularly special order books it would be considered discrimination.

DF

Compel the baker to refuse service to fornicators, adulterers, divorcees and liars. The scripture has a lot more to say about those.

Daniel Piedra

The judge wasn't blaming the same-sex couple. He was balancing the harms between the two parties. On one side, there was suffering indignity; on the other side, there was the loss of First Amendment freedoms as well as economic loss.

That same-sex couple is welcome to buy anything they want from Cathy Miller's bakery. She's said that a million times. She just won't use her artistic abilities to celebrate an event that conflicts with her religious beliefs about marriage. It has nothing to do with being gay or not.

Anonymous

The judge wasn't blaming the black couple. He was balancing the harms between the two parties. On one side, there was suffering indignity; on the other side, there was the loss of First Amendment freedoms as well as economic loss.

That black couple is welcome to buy anything they want from Cathy Miller's bakery. She's said that a million times. She just won't use her artistic abilities to celebrate an event that conflicts with her religious beliefs about marriage. It has nothing to do with being black or not.

Bakersfield pro...

The couple was not ordering a wedding cake from Cathy Miller; they were ordering it from Tastries Bakery, which is a corporate entity legally defined as separate from its owner and subject to anti-discrimination laws that all businesses must follow. As many posters have previously mentioned, corporations are not people, and thus cannot have religious views or objections. If Cathy Miller did not want to personally design a cake for the couple due to her personal religious objections, she could have had one of her employees design it instead, and still remained within the law. However, in refusing to allow a wedding cake to be made by *anyone* at her bakery, she and her business violated federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

The judge who made this ridiculous ruling is a coward; his joints must be strained from all the contortion he did to pull this lame justification out of his anus.

Anonymous

Mental health perspective:

"When one feels injured, insulted or angered by the words or expressive conduct of others, the harm is many times self-inflicted."

This statement is based on the work of Aaron Beck's cognitive perspective that it is not what happens to you that creates your symptoms, but rather your perspective/beliefs (cognitions) of the events that creates he emotional response. The judge failed to understand though that these emotions are valid though, and that anger is a justified response to a perceived injustice. It's the courts responsibility to decide wether the injustice is real or delusional. For example: imagine you get cut off on the highway, and you get angry because you believe they were trying to hurt you. In reality you can't read minds and they may just be rushing to the hospital. Our emotions are always valid, and in this case it is justified. I believe the judge grossly misunderstood the work of Dr Beck to suit his own preconceived notions.

Dave Miller

I'm not a fan of discrimination, but if they're going to allow it, the store should be required to post a sign, saying, "We Don't Serve Gay People." I think it would hurt their business most places, but in any case, they shouldn't be allowed to be stealth homophobes.

Anonymous

That sign would be untrue - they do serve gay people. What they don't wish to do is create custom wedding cakes for ceremonies they believe go against their religious beliefs

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