It's a Bakersfield story going national, and just as national issues divide the nation along political fault lines, so the Tastries Bakery story is dividing Bakersfield residents along similar cracks and chasms in our community.
When Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe ruled Monday that bakery owner Cathy Miller may continue to refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, his decision ignited discussion — and less savory exchanges — on Facebook and other social media platforms.
But before we get to that discussion, a few facts should be understood. The underlying case itself was not decided Monday. Judge Lampe simply denied a motion for a preliminary injunction, which would have compelled Tastries to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples during the interim period — essentially from the time the injunction was granted and the day the case was concluded, likely several months into the future.
Now that that's clear, on to the discussion. And if you didn't think Bakersfield was a microcosm of the polarized electorate in the nation, a glance at digital media's answer to the water cooler should change your mind.
"Thankful for common sense," JoAnne Gause Cole wrote on The Californian's Facebook page. "There are restaurants that have dress codes, can't come in without shoes, or have to have a shirt, etc. Each establishment should have the right to set up their own standards."
Bakersfield resident Cindy Mcelroy appeared to agree that businesses should have the right to refuse service, at least in the Tastries case.
"Obviously facts were looked at, and under our constitution, the owners of the bakery did nothing wrong," she said. "Why they needed a judge is crazy. Get a cake somewhere else. It's super simple."
Karen Pierce, of Bakersfield, disagreed. She argued that such behavior could open the door to discrimination.
"So what happens when someone uses their 'religion' to discriminate (because that's what this is) against an interracial couple? Or a black family wanting to celebrate their child's birthday? Or a clean-shaven man? Cause it's in the Bible (Leviticus 19:27). Where will the line be drawn?"
After some commenters went after Pierce, Monica Garner Ramsey seemed to come to her defense.
"So Karen asked, what about interracial marriages?" Ramsey said. "That was denied based on Christian views for centuries. What about selling maternity clothes to an unwed mother? Wedding cake for a twice-divorced person? Where will the line be drawn?"
And so the conversation continued over any number of posts, sometimes polite and respectful, other times, less so.
Some comments raised interesting questions.
"Let me ask this," David Nunlist wrote on TBC Media's Facebook page. "When the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a similar case later this year, is it really going to matter what happens here?"
Indeed, Nunlist appeared to be referring to the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips who, similar to the Bakersfield case, refused to make a cake to celebrate a same-sex couple's marriage because he believes that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman.
The case is currently being heard in the nation's highest court.
As a lawyer for Phillips argued Wednesday on behalf of the baker's "artistic expression," Justice Elena Kagan and other justices asked where they were supposed to draw a line designating which business owners could qualify for an exemption from anti-discrimination laws, CNN reported. Could a jeweler do the same? What about a makeup artist? A hairstylist?
Depending on the underlying laws affecting the two cases, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision could have a profound impact on the ultimate fate of the local Tastries case, said Bakersfield attorney Seth O'Dell.
But the preliminary injunction Lampe ruled on Monday is a tiny part of the larger case, O'Dell said. Care should be taken not to give too much weight to its outcome.