A California baker is elated over her religious freedom win after a judge ruled she was within her rights to deny baking a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
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Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California, made headlines this week, when she won her battle against the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment, which sued Miller over what it saw as intentional discrimination.
The state unsuccessfully argued the baker had violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a California law protecting people from discrimination based on age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and other factors at businesses.
Charles LiMandri, special counsel at the Thomas More Society, the law firm representing Miller, told CBN’s Faithwire his client isn’t biased against gay individuals — something the court ultimately concluded.
“She’s happy to serve gay customers,” LiMandri said. “She has a lot of happy gay customers. And she’s also had gay employees, so she certainly doesn’t discriminate against gay people.”
He continued, “The judge basically found there was no discrimination that was unlawful under the Unruh Act, because there was no invidious motivation or animus towards gay people.”
Miller also shared how the five-year legal battle began, its impact, and her message for the couple at the center of it all.
“This case began five years ago, and that’s when a couple came into the bakery,” she said. “It was two men and two women and another older woman.”
Once it became clear she was being asked to make a cake for a same-sex couple, she said she needed to pause, pray, and reflect.
“That’s when I had to say … ‘Let me go get some more paperwork.’ I went to the side, I prayed very hard, and I asked the Lord to give me wisdom,” Miller said. “And I just started visiting with them, and I told them I couldn’t do their cake … I said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t hurt my Lord and Savior. I can’t participate in this union because … God says it’s a sacrament between a man and a woman.’”
These faith-based sentiments might not have shocked many who frequented the bakery, as Christian music often plays inside, with books and Bibles on display.
Miller said she referred the couple to another person whom she described as “an amazing decorator” — a fellow baker who is part of the LGBTQ community and is married to another woman. In the past, this option worked well for customers in similar situations.
But this time was different.
“I was shocked, and I know they were upset, but I did not think that it would go this far,” Miller said. “I did not realize that, within two hours, we would be bombarded by hate mail, death threats, rape threats. The media was storming into our bakery.”
As news spread and the media descended on the bakery, Miller said the staff had to field “horrible phone calls” while also locking the doors to keep journalists out.
She even had to briefly shut down Tastries Bakery while chaos ensued. The entirety of the ordeal left Miller feeling “vulnerable.”
“It was a little bit scary, because we weren’t quite sure what to do,” she said, noting how she finally felt comfortable after connecting with the Thomas More Society, a law firm that takes on pro-life and religious-freedom cases.
Miller said the attorneys there understood why she took such a firm position on the matter.
“When we were scared and vulnerable and not knowing what to do, they just came alongside us and said, ‘It’s OK. We got you.’”
Miller admitted it has been a financial rollercoaster. But despite the struggles, negative pushback, and threatening calls, Miller said many have encouraged the bakery and have placed orders to support her. She even has some individuals in the LGBTQ community who have been kind and caring toward her.
“It is about our faith and it is not about discrimination,” she said.
Miller also offered a compassionate response when asked what she’d say to the couple at the center of the dispute if given a chance.
“I would say that I’m very sorry that all this has happened. I hope that they understand that I was not trying to hurt them,” she said. “I was just trying to live by my beliefs and my love for my Lord.”
LiMandri said the ruling, which could still be appealed, strikes the right constitutional balance.
“Everybody knows what a wedding cake stands for, and if you have to use your artistic abilities either to write a poem, or paint a picture — in this case, design [and] create a beautiful wedding cake — that’s a form of expressive speech,” he said. “And that’s also protected under the First Amendment.”
Watch the full interview here.
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