A California judge has ruled in favor of a Christian baker who faced discrimination charges after she refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.
Kern County Judge David Lampe ruled on Monday that the state could not force Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller to bake a cake that would go directly against her beliefs, noting that the "right to free speech under the First Amendment outweighs the state's interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace."
California's Department of Fair Housing and Employment sued Miller in August after she refused to bake a cake for lesbian couple Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio because of her religious beliefs about marriage.
Miller had been accused of violating California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits businesses from denying service based on race, sexual orientation and other indicators.
The department also filed a petition for a restraining order against Miller and her bakery to force the shop to make same-sex wedding cakes or stop making wedding cakes altogether if she still refuses.
Lampe stated that an order from the state to compel someone to violate their religious beliefs would be the "stuff of tyranny."
"For this court to force such compliance would do violence to the essentials of Free Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment," Lampe said in his eight-page ruling, according to Kern Golden Empire.
The judge noted that one of the factors in the case was that the couple had requested a cake that had not already been baked and was not on sale. He said that if Miller had refused to sell the couple a cake that was on display, she would have been guilty of discrimination.
Lampe's ruling would stop an injunction that would have prevented Miller from refusing to serve same-sex couples during the case.
Miller, who was represented by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, said that she was surprised by how quickly the ruling was issued following arguments presented in court on Friday.
"When our attorney called this evening we were shocked. Of course we had hope that it would come in our favor, but we knew the Lord was in control of this and we did what we were called to do," she said.
"Our bakery and our family feel very blessed that the judge ruled in our favor. Not to say that we want to be discriminatory, but we do need to stand up for our religious freedom and for our freedom of speech," she added.
In June, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case that bears similarities with the lawsuit against Miller.