Because the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet given lower courts a recipe for what religious freedom rights should be given to wedding vendors, yet another cake baker has a case in the legal oven now.
It was a different wedding cake baker, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Colorado, who started the very public legal tussle over whether certain vendors in the wedding industry should be allowed to refuse business for same-sex couples. Phillips, a devout evangelical Christian, said his religious beliefs that marriage is only permissible between a male and a female required him to refuse to make cakes for same-sex weddings.
That case began in 2012, three years prior to the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Colorado has a state law requiring businesses engaged in any sales to the public to serve all customers regardless of race, creed, color or sexual orientation. While churches are exempt from that policy, private businesses are not.
Phillips won his case before the high court in 2018. However, that ruling was so narrow as to be applicable only to the single case. Since then, the makeup of the Supreme Court has become decidedly more conservative, and conservative legal groups keep filing similar cases in hopes they might tee up an opportunity for the new court to rule more definitively.
The makeup of the Supreme Court has become decidedly more conservative, and conservative legal groups keep filing similar cases in hopes they might tee up an opportunity for the new court to rule more definitively.
These cases have involved bakers, website designers and photographers — all of whom say their work is creative and customized and therefore should not be subject to government mandates that violate their religious beliefs. One of those cases already is scheduled for the Supreme Court this term.
All these cases began in lower courts, which is where the latest case from Bakersfield, Calif., recently debuted. Associated Press reported the state Department of Fair Housing and Employment had sued Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, arguing owner Cathy Miller intentionally discriminated against a same-sex couple in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.
An earlier decision in Kern County Superior Court favored Miller’s claim but later was vacated by the 5th District Court of Appeal, which sent the lawsuit back to the county. Now, Kern County Superior Court Judge Eric Bradshaw ruled Oct. 23 that Miller acted lawfully while upholding her beliefs about what the Bible teaches regarding marriage — despite the state’s anti-discrimination law.
The couple, Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio, told AP they expect an appeal to be filed.
Miller is represented by the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit firm specializing in religious liberty claims from a conservative evangelical standpoint. The same group also represented California pastor John MacArthur in his fight against Los Angeles County and the state of California over COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings.
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Now add a wedding photographer to the list of those successfully objecting to same-sex weddings