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.

View comments (119)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

The judge made the right decision. Nobody has a right to someone else’s services or labor.

Anonymous

You're crazy

Proud Democrat

That's incorrect. When you run a business you are required to follow the laws that govern your business. If religious people can't sell to everyone, then they should their business and open a church where they can have all the white only, straight only, so called Christian only bake sales that they want.

Anonymous

If the cake design wasn't going to be in the shape of anatomy or some pornographic image or otherwise some religiously offensive image the artistry argument simply doesn't apply. If we are talking about a traditionally designed buttercreme or fondant confection then the baker's artistic license isn't impacted by faith concerns. The judge expressed bigotry in this decision and I hope it is overturned on appeal or superseded by the Supreme Court decision. Homophobic folks should stop hiding their bigotry under a religious cover. If this is about a baker not wanting to sell a cake to people she believes are sinning, then I wonder if she will sell cakes to individuals on their second or third marriage? Even Jesus fed sinners so I'm not buying it.

William Waterhouse

My concern here would be that if they are creating a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people, even though the law prohibits it, does this not open up a reason to discriminate on others from other protected groups? A judgment against LGBTQ people would be damaging to anyone who isn't in a position of power. The psychological damage of not being accepted is too much for some. For those who say that it is part of being an adult, or that we are cry-baby liberals have no idea what it is like.
Something our American educational system lacks is the teaching of empathy. Why is discrimination a right? Why is it accepted? How would it feel if you were discriminated against? We need to put ourselves in others' shoes.

Maggie St.George

ah, fuck the bakery and every one who thinks like the douchebag who owns it. Spend your money elsewhere and let her go under for asshattery. Don't go to places that make you feel like shite and let every one know to stay away too. The judge needs a good kick in the pants too. Such stupid people in this world. People who defer to their religion to act like sub-human despicable bigots deserve to be treated, in turn, the same way. Treat people how you'd like to be treated....well, if that baker or anyone else with the same bigoted beliefs comes into my store I'll tell them to get the hell out because they're low down dirty bigots. Lesbian, mother, wife and proud of myself!!!!

ALX

This a perfect example of where the ACLU drops the ball and winds up on the wrong side of history and freedom of speech.
The ADF picks it up, fortunately, and comes to the defense of first amendment freedoms of thought, speech and expression.
The mistake that the ACLU has been making is allowing itself to be used against these first amendment rights by those attempting to give LGBT beliefs greater recognition in law than religious or other beliefs.
It didn't help that Obama made the blunder of supporting these attacks on religious people and helped to put Trump in the White House by alienating the religious natural allies of the Left and the ACLU.
This is one area where the otherwise valuable ACLU needs to do some serious housecleaning.

Anonymous

Oh my GOD, the ACLU is protecting these godless queers. What next, the blacks and the... Go ahead, Margaret, we're listening.

Howard

All the people in this silliness are morons. The lesbian couple could have just ordered a cake without making a big deal about the fact they are lesbians. They didn't, but the baker could have just sold them a cake. The judge could have opted not to waste the court's time.

Anonymous

Thos decision will not last 5 minutes on appeal. The Judge needs to go back to law school.

Pages

Stay Informed