Bakers Refusing Same-Sex Couples Wedding Cakes: Freedom of Religion versus Discrimination

By Emily Van De Loo 

Last week, a California Superior Court judge ruled in favor of a California baker's right to refuse to bake a wedding cake for same-sex couples, due to the baker's religious beliefs. 

Cathy Miller is the owner of Tastries bakery. The BBC quotes Miller explaining since she is a Christian, she is unable to "be a part of a celebration that goes against my lord and saviour.

This case began when Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio filed a complaint after their experience at Tastries bakery. They had asked for a wedding cake (with no particular inscription about themselves or their same-sex marriage).  The court record reflects Miller responded by recommending another bakery for the couple to go to, since "she does not condone same-sex marriage." 

Miller's lawyers presented their arguments referencing artistic expression in cake making, therefore Miller's behavior was not deemed a violation of California's anti-discrimination law

This decision has come at a pivotal time, while we are still awaiting the final ruling from the US Supreme Court on a similar case. Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission was argued in front of the Supreme Court in early December. In this case, Phillips's lawyers presented arguments in favor of the right to refuse same-sex couples business given the freedom of religion clause under the First Amendment regarding freedom of speech and expression. 

It is up to the Supreme Court to set the precedent now. While the arguments have their own respective nuances, the bakers in these cases are ultimately arguing for their First Amendment right regarding freedom of religion. However, the couples to be married who were denied service view this as a blatant act of discrimination against them.

In terms of discrimination, there is the potential here to create a slippery slope. Could a baker refuse to bake a wedding cake for an interracial couple? Phillips lawyers have said no, their arguments do not extend to race. Rather, they argue this case falls into a sort of gray area since it is involved with the baker's artistic expression, opposed to other instances of discrimination during the sale of any other arbitrary goods.

The couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, originally filed a complaint, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission deemed this a violation of the state's anti-discrimination law. As the case rose up through the court system, arguments for Mullins and Craig have centered around discrimination. Mullins and Craig were represented in front of the Supreme Court by the American Civil Liberties Union

Justice Kennedy, who was instrumental in the case legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015, will undoubtedly play a key role in this decision


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