Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund attorneys representing Christian cake artist Cathy Miller and Tastries Bakery filed today an answer to the California’s lawsuit brought on behalf of a same-sex couple who complained that Miller discriminated against them when she declined to create a custom cake for their wedding celebration. In addition to denying all allegations, Miller asserts fifteen legal defenses, including that the First Amendment protects her right to decline to create custom cakes that violate her Christian faith. Miller also argues the same-sex couple fraudulently targeted her because, under California law, the women can collect up to $25,000 if they receive a favorable judgment.
“As a practicing Christian and law-abiding business owner, Cathy welcomingly serves all customers,” said Daniel Piedra, FCDF’s executive director. “Cathy has never and will never discriminate against LGBT persons, yet California bureaucrats are determined to humiliate Cathy and shutter her bakery. Their relentless hostility, which includes this meritless lawsuit, is motivated solely by their anti-religious animus.”
In August 2017, Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio, a married same-sex couple, asked Miller to create a cake for their wedding celebration. Miller declined the request because the custom cake would have expressed messages about marriage that conflict with her Christian faith. The couple filed a discrimination complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the agency that enforces the State’s anti-discrimination law. The DFEH sued Miller, seeking a court order that would force Cathy to create custom cakes for everyone or no cakes at all. In February 2018, state court judge David Lampe ruled in Miller’s favor, holding that her beliefs are protected by the First Amendment. Despite losing in court, the DFEH sued Miller again in October 2018.
As the FCDF’s Answer explains,
The DFEH is putting the defendants in an impossible dilemma: They must either violate their sincerely held religious beliefs or face crippling fines, punishment, and public humiliation. Moreover, because the defendants do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, forcing them to express messages or celebrate events that violate their religious beliefs does not further any compelling government interest under strict scrutiny.
“California’s government lawyers are ignoring their earlier loss and are continuing to single out Cathy to punish her for her religious beliefs,” said Piedra. “Even though Cathy serves all customers and simply declines to create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events that violate her Christian faith, the government is intent on destroying her—something the U.S. Supreme Court has already forbidden in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Neither Cathy nor any other creative professional should be targeted by the government for living and working according to their religious beliefs.”
Now that the Answer has been filed, the case will move forward toward trial. The case is Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cathy’s Creations, et al., BCV-18-102633, in the Superior Court of the State of California County of Kern.