Judge upholds baker’s right to refuse to make cake for gay couples

The judge ruled that the baker's right to free speech trumped Californian anti-discrimination law

A baker can continue to refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, a judge in the United States has ruled.

In a case with obvious parallells to the Ashers bakery court case that divided opinion and even drew on-street demonstrations in Northern Ireland, the California bakery owner’s lawyers argued successfully that her Christian beliefs and free religious expression mean she has the right to refuse certain services.

The case began in August after the conservative Christian bakery owner refused to make a wedding cake for Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez-Del Rio.

The Bakersfield Californian newspaper reports that a lawyer for Tastries Bakery argued that owner Cathy Miller’s right to free speech and free expression of religion should take precedence over the argument that she had violated an anti-discrimination law in California.

Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe ruled earlier this week that Miller’s right to free speech under the US Constitution’s First Amendment trumped the California anti-discrimination law she had violated, the California-based newspaper reported.

“A wedding cake is not just a cake in a free speech analysis. It is an artistic expression by the person making it,” the judge said.

Miller spoke to the Bakersfield Californian after the ruling.

“I am very happy to serve everything from my cases to anybody,” she said. “But I cannot be a part of a celebration that goes against my lord and saviour.”

In Northern Ireland, meanwhile, the UK Supreme Court will sit for the first time in Belfast this April to consider a judgment against Ashers, who were found guilty in 2015 of unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A case was taken against the Newtownabbey bakery after they had refused to bake a cake with the slogan ‘support gay marriage’. They had argued that it was against their religious beliefs to make the cake, but multiple courts have upheld the decision against them.

It was announced in November that five Supreme Court justices would travel to Belfast to consider whether the bakery discriminated against a customer on the grounds of sexual orientation.

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