We are waiting for the potential blockbuster case of 303 Creative before the Supreme Court this term. However, a similar case just reached a final decision in California. In the case, Cathy Miller, a cake designer who owns the popular Tastries bakery in Bakersfield, California, prevailed against the Department of Fair Housing and Employment. She was sued for refusing to make a cake for a lesbian couple, Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio, due to her religious beliefs.
The case is very similar to the Masterpiece Cake Shop case that was previously before the Supreme Court, though failed to reach a definitive result on the question of religious freedom versus state discrimination laws.
The court rejected the action filed by the Department of Fair Housing and Employment under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a 1959 state law protecting consumers from discrimination by businesses.
I have long disagreed with the focus on the religious clauses in these cases. In my view, it is all about free speech.
In this case, the bakery posted standards that said it would produce “positive” designs but included a list of designs that it would not create designs featuring drug use, explicit sexual content, “gore, witches, spirits, and satanic or demonic content,” and “design that violate fundamental Christian principals; wedding cakes must not contradict God’s sacrament of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Miller refused to bake a custom cake for a lesbian wedding in 2017 on religious grounds. Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe ruled in 2018 in favor of Miller but the California 5th District Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the decision. Lampe previously emphasized the free speech rights of Miller. Lampe ruled that “the fact that Rodriguez-Del Rios feel they will suffer indignity from Miller’s choice is not sufficient to deny constitutional protection… [an] “interest in preventing dignitary harms . . . is not a compelling basis for infringing free speech.”
In the new ruling, Judge Eric Bradshaw again found that Miller had a constitutionally protected right to refuse to bake a custom cake for a lesbian wedding in 2017 on religious grounds. Bradshaw found that “Miller’s only motivation, at all times, was to act consistent with her sincere Christian beliefs about what the Bible teaches regarding marriage.” He added “[t]hat motivation was not unreasonable, or arbitrary, nor did it emphasize irrelevant differences or perpetuate stereotypes.”
Here is the decision: Dep’t of Fair Employment and Housing and v. Cathy’s Creations