California court affirms religious right of baker’s refusal to create custom cake for same-sex wedding

For the second time, one California court has supported the legality of a Christian woman’s refusal to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding.

In 2017, Cathy Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery, declined to bake a cake for two women who asked the Bakersfield business for a custom cake for their wedding, instead referring them to another baker. The state Department of Fair Housing and Employment filed suit, claiming violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, “an expansive 1959 state law aimed at protecting consumers from discrimination by businesses on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion,” according to a Fox News report.

The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based pro-bono firm that has experience in religious liberty cases, provided legal representation for Tastries. Special Counsel Charles LiMandri noted in closing arguments that Miller’s refusal was regarding a custom cake specifically, which she viewed as a personal endorsement of the wedding; however, she would have sold the women a pre-made cake.

Thomas More Society Special Counsel Paul Jonna commented on the irony of the situation, in which “a law intended to protect individuals from religious discrimination was used to discriminate against Cathy for her religious beliefs.”

Kern County Superior Court had ruled in favor of the bakery in 2018. The decision was appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded the decision, which sent it back to Kern County Superior Court, where in Friday’s ruling, Judge Eric Bradshaw found that Miller had not violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

“The evidence affirmatively showed that Miller’s only intent, her only motivation, was fidelity to her sincere Christian beliefs,” Bradshaw’s decision reads. “Miller’s only motivation in creating and following the design standards, and in declining to involve herself or her business in designing a wedding cake for a marriage at odds with her faith, was to observe and practice her own Christian faith, i.e., to avoid ‘violat[ing] fundamental Christian principles’ or ‘contradict[ing] God’s sacrament of marriage between a man and a woman’.”

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