HRC Responds to Major News from the U.S. Supreme Court

by Stephen Peters

Supreme Court of the United States takes up discrimination case involving Colorado bakery; rejects Arkansas Supreme Court’s discriminatory birth certificate ruling; and allows limited version of Trump’s travel ban to go into effect

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, responded to announcements from the Supreme Court of the United States in multiple legal cases greatly impacting LGBTQ people, including Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case involving a Colorado bakery which violated state law by refusing service to a same-sex couple; Pavan v. Smith, a case asserting the right of both same-sex parents to be listed on birth certificates in Arkansas; as well as Donald J. Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Donald J. Trump v. Hawaii, cases involving President Trump’s travel ban.

Today, the high court agreed to hear Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case involving a baker who in 2012 refused to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Last year, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals that bakery owner Jack Phillips cannot cite religious beliefs or free speech in order to discriminate against same-sex couples.

“Colorado state law explicitly protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in public services, and a business open to the public must abide by the law,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “The right to practice one’s religion is firmly protected by the U.S. Constitution, however, personal religious beliefs do not give a public business owner a special right to violate the law by discriminating against LGBTQ people. HRC supports the plaintiffs in this case and their attorneys with the ACLU.”

Today, the high court also ordered the state of Arkansas to allow both married same-sex parents to be listed on their child’s birth certificate. The decision, in Pavan v. Smith, overturns an Arkansas Supreme Court decision that had had banned the state’s Department of Health from listing both same-sex parents on their child’s birth certificate. The Arkansas Supreme Court decision would have forced same-sex couples to enter into legal proceedings to guarantee their children’s rights. Under Arkansas law, a different-sex couple married at the time of a child’s birth are presumed parents, and listed as such on the birth certificate — even in cases where reproductive technologies have been used and agreed to by both parents. Additionally, a different-sex couple married after the birth of their child can both be listed as legal parents on the birth certificate if the husband attests he is the parent. The case was argued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Ropes & Gray, LLP and Arkansas attorney Cheryl Maples.

“This is an important win for same-sex parents not just in Arkansas, but across the country,” said Warbelow. “Children deserve to have the full benefits of parental recognition from the time they are born, and this decision ensures married same-sex spouses have the same legal parental rights as different-sex spouses. We congratulate the attorneys and plaintiffs on this important victory.”

In the cases of Donald J. Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Donald J. Trump v. Hawaii, the high court also announced today that it has agreed to consider this fall the constitutionality of Trump's travel ban, which has thus far been blocked by two lower courts. The justices allowed portions of the ban to take effect in the interim on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, including Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The court did however make an exception for anyone with a "bona fide relationship with a person or entity" in the U.S. — such as a family member or admittance to a school in the U.S. Earlier this year, HRC joined the International Refugee Assistance Project to pen an op-ed on how the President’s refugee policies are dangerous for LGBTQ people around the world.

“Donald Trump’s travel ban discriminates against a huge portion of the world’s population and demonizes Muslims. That is flat out wrong,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “Worse yet, Trump’s reckless travel ban endangers LGBTQ people and others who are fleeing human rights abuses sanctioned by leaders in these countries. LGBTQ individuals are representative of all peoples — we are Jewish, Muslim, asylum-seekers, immigrants, black, white, and Latinx, and we must continue to stand together against this hateful ban. Despite today’s setback, we hope that the high court will ultimately recognize the travel ban for what it is — unconstitutional and discriminatory.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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