BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Two lesbians who filed a complaint against a Christian baker after she declined to make a cake for a same-sex celebration wore hidden microphones to record the refusal, according to a press release from the baker’s attorneys.
“The evidence shows that this was all a set-up to get money and to destroy Cathy for her Christian faith,” said Charles LiMandri, attorney with the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund. “The couple never intended to actually celebrate their marriage with a custom cake from Tastries. We hope as this case moves forward, the full truth will come to light.”
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) recently filed a new lawsuit against Cathy Miller of Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield, California, seeking financial damages for emotional distress suffered by the two women.
“Although they wanted only a simple wedding cake, the couple’s quest did not proceed as smoothly as their search for a venue. They visited several local bakeries and tasted cakes, but had been unsuccessful in their search when Eileen serendipitously drove past a bakery called Tastries,” the lawsuit states.
The women then found a “simple cake design” they liked in a display case and wanted to have it replicated, but when they returned for a tasting a week later, Miller referred them to another bakery after realizing the order was for a same-sex celebration.
“Tastries’ explicit refusal to sell the Rodriguez-Del Rios a wedding cake because they intended to celebrate their wedding so devastated the couple that they considered purchasing a premade, non-wedding cake from a grocery or big box store,” the complaint reads. “Once exciting, planning their wedding reception became a painful and emotionally upsetting process.”
The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund opines, however, that the women’s claims don’t add up.
“Although the lawsuit claims ‘Eileen and Mireya did not know what to do’ after the incident, the record shows the couple immediately took to social media, and within 30 minutes Miller began receiving death threats and emails containing images of people engaging in depraved sexual acts. News crews arrived shortly afterward,” the organization outlines.
The lawsuit also asserts that the women suffered both physically and emotionally, stating that “Mireya’s nose started to bleed—which was completely out of the ordinary—and she got a headache.” It further contends that “[a]lthough she tried to contain her emotions, Eileen later broke down, and her emotional anguish aggravated her rheumatoid arthritis.”
Miller’s attorneys say that they learned during the investigation stage of the case that the women had come prepared with hidden microphones, which raised questions about their motives.
“Despite the couple’s claim that they were ‘[s]tunned, hurt, and offended,’ facts discovered during investigation shows that the couple had intentionally been searching for a business that would ‘discriminate’ against them, wearing hidden microphones to catch a business owner in the act,” outlined the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund.
As previously reported, the two women, Eileen Del Rio and Mireya Rodriguez, who “married” in December 2016, went to Tastries Bakery in August 2017 to request a same-sex “wedding” cake, which was to be for their reception. They found one they liked, and came back days later for a tasting, during which time they were directed by an employee to meet with Miller.
Miller, who had the women try some of her cupcakes while present, offered to call another baker who could accommodate them after she learned that the cake was for a same-sex celebration as she herself could not be a part of the event.
“We’re Christians. We love everyone. God made everyone. It doesn’t matter the color [or] whatever. Everyone is God’s creation and I love everyone,” Miller told ABC23 News. “But, there’s certain things that violate my conscience and my conscience will not allow me to participate in things that I feel are wrong, and most of what that’s based on is Scripture.”
The women, upset that she had offered a referral instead of creating the cake herself, took to social media about the matter and later filed a complaint with the DFEH, which handles enforcement of the state’s civil rights law.
The DFEH soon Miller placed under investigation, sending her more than forty questions about her professional and personal life. The entity decided to take Miller to court over the matter, asking that it issue an injunction against Miller’s practice of declining to make cakes for same-sex celebrations.
In February 2018, Judge David Lampe ruled in favor of Miller, differentiating between a legitimate case of discrimination if a person refused to sell a generic product on the shelf, with declining to specially create a cake that celebrates an event that one’s religion prohibits.
“The State is not petitioning the court to order defendants to sell a cake,” he wrote. “The State asks this court to compel Miller to use her talents to design and create a cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of a marital union her religion forbids.”
“A wedding cake is not just cake in free speech analysis. It is an artistic expression by the person making it that is to be used traditionally as centerpiece in the celebration of marriage. There could not be a greater form of expressive conduct,” Lampe also noted. “The State asks this court to compel Miller against her will and religion to allow her artistic expression in celebration of marriage to be co-opted to promote the message desired by same-sex marital partners, and with which Miller disagrees.”
He said that the women had ample alternatives as “Miller is not the only wedding cake creator in Bakersfield.”
On Oct. 17, a new complaint was filed against Miller, seeking damages for emotional distress and an injunction that would require her to create and/or cakes for same-sex events. It also has petitioned the state court of appeals to issue a writ of mandamus ordering Lampe to change his order.
“Tastries does not ask customers ordering a ‘custom’ wedding cake whether either member of the couple being celebrated has been divorced or has had a child while unmarried,” the lawsuit argues.
“Tastries’ employees have delivered wedding cakes while wearing clothing not marked in any manner identifying them as employees of Tastries. Tastries sometimes delivers wedding cakes at a time when no guests or members of the wedding party are present,” it says.
The DFEH is asking the court to order Miller not to refuse any further cakes for same-sex celebrations and to conduct employee training for the next five years in regard to the matter, “[s]ubmit[ting] an annual report to the DFEH for five years identifying any services defendants deny to customers based on free speech or religious grounds.”
It also asks that Miller be ordered to “[j]ointly and severally pay to the Rodriguez-Del Rios actual damages, including but not limited to their out-of-pocket damages, expenses incurred in filing and pursuing their complaint of discrimination, and emotional distress damages for each Unruh Act violation up to a maximum of three times the actual damages but in no case less than $4,000 per offense, plus interest,” as well as punitive damages.
“This meritless lawsuit is proof that California’s pro-LGBT bureaucrats will stop at nothing until Cathy is put out of business,” LiMandri said. “For over a year, Cathy’s family and employees have faced death threats, lewd messages, and vandalism. The sad truth is if the government wins, then no Christian business owner will be safe from persecution.”