Tastries bakery owners testify about the religious beliefs that guide the business

July 29—By Ishani Desai

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Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller testified Thursday that she is a vessel for the Lord and follows His will in what she does. That includes denying a same-sex couple a wedding cake, an incident that captured national attention and was the subject of a lawsuit this week.

Miller and her husband testified in a crowded Kern County Superior Court courtroom on Thursday after their company, Cathy’s Creations, was charged by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing with violating the California Unruh Civil Rights Act. The law states that a company cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Kern County Judge David Lampe ruled in 2018 in favor of Cathy Miller and said her First Amendment rights were protected. The 5th District Court of Appeals reversed that decision and returned the case to Kern County Courts. The DFEH again lodged a complaint. The civil case is being heard by Judge Eric Bradshaw and will be decided by him, not by a jury.

Miller said her intention was never to discriminate against those in same-sex couples — she’s served gay people in the past for events outside of weddings. She said she should follow her conscience, which guides her in everything. In that sense, she wouldn’t bake a cake for a couple filing for divorce or for a polyamorous couple, Miller said under direct questioning by her attorney, Charles LiMandri of the Thomas More Society.

“I just follow my conscience and what the Bible says,” Miller said. “If I was discriminating, I wouldn’t allow anyone to buy anything from them. You’re going all over the place.”

LiMandri also showed several photos and videos of people decorating cakes with different frosting colors and tools to create the final product. For Miller, these creations are art. The defense said Miller’s cakes are artistic endeavors and therefore a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Miller became emotional when asked about the relationship between different sexual orientations and marriage when cross-examined by DFEH lead counsel Gregory Mann. Her religious beliefs dictate that marriage is only between a man and a woman. A marriage between homosexuals does not fit into this definition, she testified.

The owner of Tastries also agreed that fundamental Christian principles vary from person to person. But, she does not ask if a couple lives together before getting married, because that would be “discrimination”. Miller testified that she also does not ask if a Christian marries an atheist.

God’s law comes first, Miller said, and all other law comes second.

Michael Miller, Cathy Miller’s husband, testified that his involvement in the business is primarily to file tax returns, deliver cakes and manage human resources. The two Millers reviewed Unruh’s civil rights law when setting up their business, but did not consult with a lawyer about its application. When the United States Supreme Court upheld Obergefell v. Hodges, a case legalizing same-sex marriage, the Millers reviewed their policy and determined that denying wedding cakes to same-sex couples could still be equal if they referred them to another company, Miller said.

Michael Miller testified that “the market could offer that” benchmark, which allowed them to comply with the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

He also said that if they stopped making wedding cakes, they wouldn’t be able to continue their business.

Lawyers for plaintiffs Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio rested on Thursday. Cathy Miller’s cross-examination is scheduled to continue Friday.

You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @_ishanidesai on Twitter.

Ruth R. Culp