BAKERSFIELD, Ca. (CN) — In an echo of the high-profile gay wedding cake case before the U.S. Supreme Court, California this week sued a Bakersfield bakery to stop it from discriminating against same-sex couples.
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing on Wednesday filed an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order against Cathy’s Creations dba Tastries and its owner, Cathy Miller, on behalf of Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio.
Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe rejected a motion for a restraining order Thursday, but set a Feb. 2 hearing for a motion for a preliminary injunction: a suitable Groundhog Day date for an issue that appears to resonate nationwide far more strongly than a simple cake could be expected to do.
“California respects and celebrates diverse religious beliefs and freedom of speech, but does not create exceptions to its civil rights laws to allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation,” Fair Employment and Housing director Kevin Kish said in a statement.
“After a careful review of the preliminary facts, DFEH concluded that legal intervention was warranted to ensure equal access to services and prevent harm resulting from discrimination until our investigation is complete,” he added.
No one at Tastries bakery was available to comment just before closing time Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile in Washington D.C., the Supreme Court is grappling with the speech rights claim of a Christian baker who refused to design and cook a wedding cake for a gay couple.
Conservative justices such as Neil Gorsuch wonder how to require bakers to bake cakes without forcing them to do something that offends them, while liberal justices such as Elena Kagan are more concerned with drawing a line between free speech and unlawful discrimination.
That case began in Colorado in 2012, when Jack Phillips refused to bake a cake for Craig and Daniel Mullins, saying that gay marriage offended his religious beliefs. The couple eventually got a free cake from another bakery, but went on to file a civil rights complaint alleging violations of the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a ruling for the couple, but Phillips appealed, claiming that baking cakes is an art and therefore an expressive act protected by the First Amendment.
The Colorado Supreme Court declined to address up the case, but the U.S. Supreme Court took it up and heard arguments on Dec. 5.