On the eve of a landmark Supreme Court hearing, two lesbians are pursuing legal action against a baker who turned down a custom cake order for a same-sex marriage celebration. Religious liberty lawyer Charles LiMandri and the San Diego-based Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) are defending Cathy Miller, a devout Christian and owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California.
In August, two women entered Miller’s bakery purportedly to order a wedding cake, even though the couple had gotten married the previous December. Miller let the couple know that designing a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage violated her religious beliefs about marriage. She then recommended a local baker who could create their cake. The women promptly left and took to social media to broadcast what had happened.
Two months later, the women filed a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which enforces the state’s civil rights law that makes it illegal to refuse service to people based on their sexual orientation. On October 26, the DFEH placed Miller under formal investigation, which includes mandatory responses to 41 personal and business-related questions.
LiMandri, FCDF’s President and Chief Counsel, commented:
Cathy Miller is a devout Christian with sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage. To be clear, she would have gladly sold the same-sex couple anything from her bakery or create a cake for them for another occasion. There is little doubt, however, that the lesbian couple’s purpose for ordering a cake was to destroy Cathy and her business. And now the state of California is all too willing to join in on the warpath. Fortunately, the First Amendment forbids the government from forcing creative professionals like Cathy to express messages that violate their conscience and religious convictions.
The same-sex couple’s announcement comes on the eve of the Supreme Court’s consideration of the case of Jack Phillips, the Colorado cake artist and owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop who declined for religious reasons to design a cake for a gay couple’s wedding. LiMandri commented:
“We hope and pray that in the Masterpiece cake case the Supreme Court will uphold the clear intent of the Founding Fathers to protect the religious beliefs of all people of conscience, including the Millers.”
The DFEH refused FCDF’s request to pause the investigation until the Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece. Miller has 30 days to respond to the interrogatories.