SCOTUS Arguments Today in SCOTUS 303 Creative Case; Case Could Have Consequences for LGBTQ+ People and Other Vulnerable Groups

by HRC Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments for the case of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. The case will either protect the fundamental equality of LGBTQ+ people — or it could set a dangerous precedent giving businesses a license to discriminate.

Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow released the following statement:

“If a business is open on main street, it must be open to everyone, regardless of who they are or whom they love. At its core, this case is a cynical effort to manipulate the First Amendment in order to provide a license to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people and our families. A business owner's personal beliefs should never be reason enough to discriminate against a customer.
Granting the unprecedented ‘free speech exemption’ sought by petitioners in 303 Creative v. Elenis would be a dangerous change to long standing constitutional and civil rights law. It would inevitably lead to increased discrimination not only related to LGBTQ+ people or weddings, but also for other vulnerable populations including women, people with disabilities, and people of minority faiths. It’s crucial that justices of the Supreme Court reject discrimination and affirm the equal dignity of every American.”

The case involves a website development business seeking an exemption from state nondiscrimination law that would allow them to deny service to same-sex couples if they offer wedding websites in the future. The petitioners are seeking a special exception to Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act which requires them, and all businesses, to provide their services equally to everyone.

In August 2022, HRC joined LGBTQ+ civil and legal rights advocates in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court of the United States to affirm long-standing precedent that preserves equal access to the commercial marketplace for all. The brief, co-authored by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and White & Case LLP, and joined by HRC and the National LGBTQ Task Force, argues that the broad, unbounded exemption from Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act the petitioners seek would undermine the civil rights settlement achieved in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and numerous state laws that we all have access to goods and services from businesses who open themselves up to the public, notwithstanding personal views of the providers. For decades, courts, including the Supreme Court, have rejected attempts to hollow out public accommodation laws by creating a right in public businesses to exclude customers based on their beliefs and views. This case threatens to disrupt that bedrock principle.

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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