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Kern County

California Civil Rights Department files appeal in anti-LGBTQ+ case



Tastries Bakery in Bakersfield sued for discrimination. (Screenshot/YouTube KERO ABC News 23)

SACRAMENTO – The California Civil Rights Department (CRD), through its counsel with the Office of the Attorney General, today announced filing an appellate brief in defense of California’s efforts to enforce civil rights protections against LGBTQ+ discrimination in goods and services offered by businesses across the state.

In the underlying lawsuit, CRD sought to protect the civil rights of a Bakersfield lesbian couple who, because of their sexual orientation, were unlawfully prevented from buying a cake for their wedding.

In the appellate brief filed in state court before the California Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District in Civil Rights Department v. Cathy’s Creations, Inc., CRD urges the appellate court to reverse the trial court’s erroneous decision, which held that the bakery’s refusal to sell the cake was not intentional discrimination and protected as speech or expressive conduct under the First Amendment.

“In California, we refuse to stand down and let others roll back the clock on fundamental civil rights protections,” said CRD Acting Director Mary Wheat. “Every couple deserves to celebrate and mark their special occasions without fear of discrimination. Refusal to provide equal access to goods and services is against the law. I encourage all Californians who believe their civil rights have been violated to reach out to our office and work with us in fighting for your rights.”

Under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, businesses and other public accommodations are required to offer full and equal access to goods and services without distinction based on protected characteristics such as sexual orientation.

However, in 2017, a lesbian couple from Bakersfield who were excited to celebrate their marriage with their loved ones were unlawfully denied service by a local bakery, Cathy’s Creations, Inc. The business — also known as “Tastries” — refused to sell the cake to the couple based on the bakery’s unlawful policy that limited the sale of wedding cakes to only celebrate opposite-sex marriages.

As a result of the policy and denial, Tastries violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The bakery’s refusal to sell the couple a cake marred an event that should have been exciting and celebratory. The couple was shocked and humiliated. As demonstrated in the underlying lawsuit, they felt rejected as a result of the denial of service, which occurred at the bakery in front of their family and close friends.

Just weeks after the incident, the couple filed a complaint with CRD, alleging that Tastries unlawfully refused to provide them full and equal service on the basis of sexual orientation. After investigating the complaint, CRD found cause to believe that Tastries had violated the law and filed suit against the bakery in 2018 before the Kern County Superior Court.

However, the trial court — ignoring the clear evidence of intentional discrimination and holding that Tastries’ referral to another business was the equivalent of providing full and equal service — ruled in favor of the bakery in late 2022. The court also erroneously ruled that the cake was protected under the First Amendment as speech or expressive conduct.

This occurred despite the fact that it was a plain, predesigned cake used interchangeably by the bakery for a variety of celebrations, from birthday parties to baby showers. Following the decision, CRD filed a notice of appeal in early 2023, recognizing that, if left in place, the trial court’s misinterpretation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act could directly undermine enforcement of California’s antidiscrimination laws.

CRD’s appellate brief makes it clear that:

  • Tastries violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act by refusing to sell a wedding cake to the couple because of their sexual orientation.
  • Providing a referral to a separate business establishment is not equivalent to providing full and equal service as required under California law.
  • Because the predesigned, unadorned cake was not inherently expressive, it was not entitled to First Amendment protection traditionally given to speech or other expressive conduct.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by discrimination by a business, CRD may be able to assist you through its complaint process. General information about CRD’s complaint process and how to file a complaint is available here. Additional information regarding rights under the Unruh Civil Rights Act is available here.



Kern County

Arsonists attack immigrant services building, set themselves ablaze

Video shows two unidentified individuals approached the building that houses Servicio de Imigracion and dousing it with an accelerant



Photo Credit: Servicio de Imigracion /Facebook

BAKERSFIELD – A company that provides immigration and naturalization services to the predominately Latino immigrant community in Kern County was targeted in an arson attempt last weekend caught on a security camera.

The footage also documented the two suspects setting themselves on fire during the act of arson.

While Kern County Arson investigators and Bakersfield police search for the two men, who were dressed in dark clothes and wearing masks, footage taken from a Ring security camera shows the two unidentified individuals approaching the building that houses Servicio de Imigracion and dousing it with an accelerant.

Screenshots from Ring security camera footage.

One of the individuals then leans over to ignite the blaze, but once doing so, the sudden and rapid inferno appears to catch both by surprise with the blaze spreading to the suspects, flames shooting up their legs and lower back, with one who repeatedly slips trying to flee.

Servicio de Imigracion owner Max Solorzano released the footage and in an interview with local ABC News affiliate KERO ABC23 Bakersfield said that the city of Bakersfield needs to do more to keep locals protected.

“They have to work harder in that aspect, in keeping the community safe,” he said. “We are a small business and we help many people, so there will be people who will not be able to receive our services due to inactivity.

“That is what most saddens me,” he continued. “We help many farmworker families with their immigration processes, we help people do taxes. We ask our clients to have patience with us, we will get through this.”

Sources told the Blade that no motive has been established nor have the suspects been arrested, although some in the Kern County law enforcement community suspect that anti-immigrant and racist elements of the crime were being considered.


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Kern County

Kern County special needs teen bullied at school in viral video



Arvin High School (Screenshot/YouTube KGET)

ARVIN, Ca. – A video of a special needs teen being bullied by other teens posted to the social media platform TikTok earlier this week has provoked outrage in this small city in twenty-two miles Southeast of Bakersfield in Kern County.

The video showed the young Latino male teen in tears having his hair cut-off with patches of bald spots intentionally shaved by another student while more gathered around directing insults mocking him and in obscene Spanish at one point you can hear one of the students tell him not to cry.

After the haircutting finishes the young teen student can be seen using his blue t-shirt to wipe away tears and then seen using his mobile as a mirror to check how much hair had been sheared off. The video footage also showed the other students with huge grins on their faces as they continued to mock the boy.

Arvin City Councilmember Daniel Borreli told local media outlets that he is “outraged” by the video and intends to hold the school accountable. Other city officials said investigators from the Arvin Police Department have reached out to the school to assist with the investigation.

A school district spokesperson emailed the following statement:

“Arvin High School administration is aware of a video circulating on social media. The behavior exhibited in the video is clearly unacceptable, and we do not condone bullying of any kind. When students breach the boundaries of acceptable behavior, they will be held accountable for their actions, and the school will provide support to any affected student. The incident is being thoroughly investigated, and appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken.”

Friday morning a rally was held in support of the bullied teen. David Kaplan, a reported for CBS News affiliate KBAK-TV tweeted:

On Thursday the high school responded with a statement posted to Twitter:

From KGET-TV NBC 17:

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