WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined an Amicus Brief filed 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. U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) led the brief, which was signed by 35 Senators and 174 House members.
“Being turned away from a public business because of who are or who you love is discrimination. We can all play a role in making our communities safe and welcoming places for our neighbors, classmates, and family members to live their lives,” said Sen. Heinrich. “I remain fully committed to our efforts to push forward in our march towards full equality for every single American.”
“Our organization seeks to stop discrimination against everyday New Mexicans because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, ability, age, religion, race, ethnicity, color, or ancestry,” said Adrian N. Carver, Executive Director of Equality New Mexico. “We believe businesses should not be able to have a license to discriminate and we are proud to stand with Senator Heinrich in support of equal rights for the LGBTQ community.”
Senator Heinrich has long supported equal rights for the LGBTQ community in and out of the workplace. He is an original cosponsor of the Equality Act, legislation to clarify and expand current civil rights laws to better protect people of color, women and LGBTQ Americans from discrimination. Among other provisions, the Equality Act would clarify existing law by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of explicitly protected classes in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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 Equality New Mexico, 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 North Carolina, Garden State Equality, and One Colorado.
A full version of the brief is available here.