California’s judge ruled that a Christian baker could refuse to bake a cake for an event such as a gay wedding.
Cathy Miller, the owner of Tastries Bakery and Boutique Bakersfield in California, was approached by a lesbian couple to bake a custom cake. Miller was not able to bake a custom-made cake because it conflicted with her Christian beliefs about the nature of marriage. Eileen Rodriguez-del Rio and Mireya Rodrguez-del Rio were offered two options. Either she could bake them a pre-made, generic cake that does not require her artistic skills, or she could suggest other bakeries that could meet their needs.
Miller’s lawyers at the Thomas More Society claim Miller was “targeted” by gay activists after this “polite refusal”. Miller was then sued by the state Department of Fair Housing and Employment for discrimination.
The DFHE argued in multiple lawsuits that Tasteries and Cathy’s Creations, Inc. violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a California law that was passed in 1959 to protect consumers from discrimination based on race, religion, or ethnicity.
Paul Jonna, TMS special counsel, and partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP noted that it is ironic that a law that was intended to protect people from religious discrimination was used against Cathy because of her religious beliefs.
Based on the cross-examination of Cathy during the July civil trial, it seems that the state’s lawyers did indeed discriminate against her, asking her questions about her Christian faith. TMS’s Gregory Mann, the attorney for the state, asked Miller if she adhered to Old Testament diet laws (“in terms of not having pigs, shellfish, etc.) in an attempt to discredit Miller’s testimony that her best effort is to follow all that the Bible has to say.”
Despite all the legal efforts of the state, Judge Eric Bradshaw of California’s Superior Court in Kern County ruled for Miller. Bradshaw’s ruling stated that the DFHE was “barred by defendants’ rights to Free Speech in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution from enforcing Unruh Civil Rights Acts to compel and prohibit defendants’ speech.”
TMS, who provided Miller legal counsel pro bono, celebrated the ruling as a “First Amendment victory.”
Charles LiMandri is special counsel to TMS and partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP.
Miller insists that she did not discriminate against anyone. Miller wanted to ensure that her business was in line with her religious precepts. In 2017, she said to reporters that Tastries was a place where everyone is loved. My husband and I are Christians. We know God created everyone and made everyone equal. So it’s not that our views don’t include people from certain groups. Certain things are not right for me.
According to the Associated Press, Rodriguez-del Rios anticipates that the decision will be appealed.
Below is a July news segment about the civil trial.