Hundreds gathered in front of the Kern County Superior Court to pray and voice their support for local bakery owner, Cathy Miller, before her hearing Friday, Feb. 2.
Miller, owner of Tastries Bakery, faces a civil suit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing after she refused to make a wedding cake for same-sex couple Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez Del-Rio.
The suit alleges that Miller’s refusal to bake a cake for the couple violates the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which protects consumers against discrimination on the basis of identity, such as sex, race, color, and sexual orientation.
Multiple community members spoke at the rally, including several pastors and Miller’s legal team. Miller’s supporters distributed Tastries cookies with “Thank You” written on them while the speakers addressed the crowd.
Miller’s pastor, Roger Spradlin of Valley Baptist, exhorted the crowd and encouraged them to break into groups and pray for the judge to rule in her favor.
“This isn’t about discrimination, it’s about freedom of religion,” said Dan Piedra, executive director of the California Family Council, the firm defending Miller. “We want her to be able to exercise her constitutional rights.”
Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan echoed this sentiment as she addressed the crowd. “I represent all of Bakersfield,” said Sullivan. “Discrimination is something none of us like and none of us tolerate. But there’s no question that the first amendment of the constitution is what where dealing with. This is a God-given right- freedom of religion.”
As Miller’s supporters sang hymns and gathered for prayer, protestors held their own invocations.
“We pray that [Miller] will see that all people are worthy of love,” said Audrey Chavez, local LGBT leader and founder of the Bakersfield AIDS Project.
Among the protesters were the same-sex couple denied services by Miller. Both Mireya and Eileen Rodriguez Del-Rio attended the rally in protest, carrying pro-LGBT signs.
“For us, it’s not about religion or free speech. Miller didn’t mention either of those when we met. It’s about equal protection under the law,” said Eileen Rodriguez Del-Rio. “The speakers keep mentioning that it isn’t about hate, but it feels like it is,” she continued. “They even tried to keep us out of the event.”
Miller denies that her actions are motivated by hate.
“We are not here because of cakes or sexual orientation. That’s not what this is about,” said Miller. “Those are just the catalysts that have brought us together to face the real issue. The issue comes down to first amendment freedom and religious rights.”
Miller’s statements were met with whoops and cheers from the crowd, as well as sighs of frustration from the protestors.
“I cannot be a part of something that goes against my conscience, which is based on my spiritual beliefs,” said Miller.
“And bigotry!” interjected a protester.
“Where’s unconditional love?” shouted another protester.
Miller concluded her statement by encouraging the crowd to pray once more.
Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe ruled in favor of Miller on Feb. 5, allowing Miller to refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples until the case comes to trial.