by Aryn Fields •
WASHINGTON — Today, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, as co-counsel with Steptoe & Johnson LLP, filed an amicus brief before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on behalf of a group of diverse businesses. The case, Carpenter v. James, involves a wedding photographer in New York who is effectively seeking permission to turn away same-sex couples and to advertise that she will not provide services to same-sex weddings. The argument before the Court addresses the scope of protections against discrimination for LGBTQ+ patrons seeking goods or services under New York State Human Rights Law and Civil Rights Law.
On behalf of a number of prominent businesses, HRC Foundation and Steptoe & Johnson LLP argue that the plaintiffs’ proposed speech-based exemptions to the non-discrimination laws are overly broad and difficult to predict. Next the brief points out that plaintiffs’ position would create confusion in the marketplace and disrupt businesses' operations. Additionally, the brief highlights that creating expansive new speech and religious-based exemptions would create holes in non-discrimination laws that may subject many businesses’ employees to discrimination both inside and outside the workplace.
This amicus brief on behalf of businesses is similar to briefs filed in other federal cases about LGBTQ+ rights, for example in Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Supreme Court of the United States, which involved a cake store in Colorado that refused to serve same-sex couples on the basis of religious exceptions. The Supreme Court there ruled that the state of Colorado’s enforcement of its civil rights law was flawed, while reaffirming that LGBTQ+ Americans should not face discrimination in the provision of goods and services and state law may continue to prohibit such discrimination.
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