U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney Lead Congressional Amicus Brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop Case
Outcome Could Determine Whether Public Accommodations Can Discriminate Against Marginalized Groups
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) announced the filing of an Amicus Brief in support of equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and other marginalized groups in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. A ruling for Masterpiece Cakeshop could create a “license to discriminate” allowing businesses to deny service to Americans, including LGBTQ people. Senator Baldwin and Representative Maloney were joined on the brief by 35 Senators and 174 House members.
“I support religious freedom and the freedom of full equality for every American. Our religious beliefs don’t entitle any of us to discriminate against others and I don’t believe that any American should face discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation – whether it’s at a bakery, a hotel, or a doctor’s office,” said Senator Baldwin. “It is simply wrong to discriminate against any American based on who they are or who they love. If an individual has the ability to pay for a service and is not in violation of the law, they should not be turned away.”
“We wouldn’t let a hotel owner refuse a room to a person because of their race or allow a restaurant to deny service to a couple based on their religion – and we can’t let that same kind of discrimination apply to Americans based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Rep. Maloney, a Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. “This is about fairness and the civil rights of all Americans – religion should not be used as a sword to inflict harm on minority groups.”
“As this friend-of-the-court brief makes clear, a ruling for Masterpiece Cakeshop would be ruling for discrimination, a violation of the Constitutional right to equal treatment under the law,” said Ian Thompson, legislative representative at the ACLU. “It would set a dangerous precedent with implications that go far beyond this case and this couple, jeopardizing long-standing anti-discrimination protections. The ACLU applauds the leadership of Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Senator Tammy Baldwin, and the 205 other Members of Congress who joined them to make their commitment to equality clear. No one should ever be refused service by a business that is open to the public simply for who they are or whom they love.”
“In this country we believe in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from discrimination,” said Harper Jean Tobin, Esq., Director of Policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality. “If civil rights laws could be ignored in the name of religion, businesses across the country from hotels to hospitals could put up a ‘transgender not welcome’ sign. On behalf of the nearly two million Americans who are transgender we thank the Members of Congress who are standing up against a license to discriminate.”
In 2012, same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins were denied a wedding cake by Masterpiece Cakeshop because of their sexual orientation. The shop’s owner, Jack Phillips, cited religious objections to same-sex marriage as a justification for his refusal. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that the shop could not lawfully deny services to individuals based on their sexual orientation under the Colorado anti-Discrimination Act and required the shop to provide staff training and issue reports on steps taken to come into compliance with the ruling. Masterpiece Cakeshop appealed the ruling, which was eventually upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court. The shop appealed the decision, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on December 5th. If the court finds that a business owner’s religious conviction or expressive intent trumps civil rights laws, it could undermine local, state and federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination an accessing public accommodations.
In the friend-of-the-court brief, signers urge the Supreme Court to affirm the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s initial decision to require Masterpiece Cakeshop to comply with the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. The brief considers the history of federal nondiscrimination laws, such as Title II of the Civil Rights Act, and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and how rulings regarding those statutes apply to the pending case. Signers warn that the outcome of the case could have broad implications for the civil rights of groups that already face discrimination and that creating exemptions to public accommodations laws – in this case based on a business’s arguably expressive conduct or religious belief – would undermine the government’s interest in prohibiting discrimination against minority groups.
The brief is supported by the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Employment Law Project, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Women’s Law Center, People for the American Way Foundation, SAGE, Transgender Law Center, Equality California, Equality Delaware, Equality Florida, Equality New Mexico, Equality North Carolina, Garden State Equality, and One Colorado.
A full version of the brief is available here.
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