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Tastries' lawyers: Supreme Court decision helps Cathy Miller

TASTRIES.JPG

Lawyers representing Cathy Miller, the owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, say the Supreme Court did them a favor with Monday's ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

The logic, they say, goes like this.

The justices said Colorado violated Jack Phillips' rights. California treated Miller the same way. Thus, the Supreme Court would also rule California violated Miller's rights.

But not everyone sees it that way.

Patricia Ziegler-Lopez represents the lesbian couple who was denied a wedding cake at Tastries last year. They contacted the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), who took Miller to court. She downplayed the scope of the high court's ruling, saying it is closely tied to the exact circumstances in Colorado and won't provide any wide-reaching precedent.

"The Court’s decision is not the end all be all to this very important issue," she wrote in a statement. "In fact, they left it quite open by saying, 'the outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts…'"

The DFEH was dealt a blow in February when a Kern County judge denied them an injunction that would've barred Miller from selling wedding cakes to anyone. The agency can appeal that decision, but said Monday they have not decided their next course of action.

"The DFEH is studying the ruling and will not comment until the analysis is complete," said Fahizah Alim, an agency spokesperson.

Charles LiMandri, the president of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, represents Miller. He rejected the notion that the Supreme Court's ruling is narrow. He'll use it if California continues its fight against Miller.

"[California] said you don't weigh the religious liberty interest, the same-sex couple wins every time, 100 percent of the time. The Supreme Court said 'No, they don't.' The people have a genuine religious liberty concern."

Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the Supreme Court, attempting to strike a balance between competing rights.

"Our society has come to the recognition that gay persons and gay couples cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth. For that reason the laws and the Constitution can, and in some instances must, protect them in the exercise of their civil rights," he wrote. "At the same time, the religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression."

In addressing the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Kennedy wrote that the body had "clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated [Phillips'] objection."

The court's narrow opinion didn't settle the broader conflict between religious liberty and laws against discrimination.

"These disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market," the opinion stated.

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