Over 150 Local Government Leaders Representing 50 Million Constituents Oppose Anti-LGBT Exemptions in Supreme Court Case

October 30, 2017 • 2:34 pm

Municipal leaders overwhelmingly agree: religion or expression can’t be used to undermine existing nondiscrimination protections

WASHINGTON – Over 150 Mayors, cities and local jurisdictions joined together today to send a clear message to the Supreme Court that businesses open to the public must serve all. Individual mayors, as well as cities and counties joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors — the non-partisan organization of the 1,408 cities in America which contain populations of 30,000 or more — in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court brief in the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs.Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. The 102 individual local governments represented on the brief collectively represent more than 50 million constituents.

The brief argues that nondiscrimination laws are fundamental tools for strengthening communities and protecting citizens, and highlights the dangers of the exemptions being sought in this case. The brief can be viewed here: https://www.freedomforallamericans.org/mayorsandjurisdictionsbrief/

“Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “The religious freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution should never be used as a cover for bigotry — and we cannot allow anyone to undermine protections that shield Americans from discrimination.”

At the heart of the Masterpiece case is the question of whether nondiscrimination laws can continue to be enforced without sweeping and dangerous exemptions. The case involves a Colorado bakery that refused to sell a cake to a same-sex couple celebrating their civil marriage. This action was in direct violation of Colorado’s nondiscrimination law, and both the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the state appellate court ruled in favor of the couple.

“In Kansas City, everyone is welcome, including the LGBTQ community,” said Kansas City Mayor Sylvester ‘Sly’ James, Jr. “As Mayor, I’ve worked hard to share this message and I’m proud of our city’s Civil Rights Ordinance which protects all our citizens from discrimination. Our laws seek to ensure no one is turned away in housing, employment or public accommodations based on who they are, what faith they follow, or who they love. Granting a business the right to refuse service sanctions discrimination, weakens our communities and leaves our citizens vulnerable. It should be opposed at all costs.” 

“Equal treatment under the law is a bedrock principle of this country,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Ken Yeager. “Business owners have a legal obligation to treat each of their customers the same. When they open their doors to the public, they cannot pick and choose whom to serve.”

In the brief, written by the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office, the New York City Law Department, and the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, municipal leaders argue that nondiscrimination policies – like the one in Colorado – are good for cities: “As local governments and elected officials, Amici have a critically important interest in ensuring that all people within our jurisdictions are treated fairly and equally under the law, have an equal opportunity to earn a living and access services, and can participate fully in society and public life. The enforcement of nondiscrimination laws, such as the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act at issue here, is crucial to achieving this goal.”

In fact, as of this year, more than 200 cities across the U.S. have laws in place that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and public places. A Supreme Court ruling in Masterpiece that undermines nondiscrimination protections could also undermine these critical local laws that so many mayors support and which help them to govern more effectively.

The vast majority of mayoral signers are members of Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination, a bipartisan coalition of municipal leaders dedicated to securing inclusive nondiscrimination protections for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, at all levels of government. Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination is a program of Freedom for All Americans, the bipartisan campaign to win comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination protections nationwide.

“I am so proud that Los Angeles has joined Santa Clara County and New York City to lead this national coalition taking a stand for LGBTQ equality,” said Mike Feuer, L.A. City Attorney. “The Court should see this case for what it is — an attempt to subvert anti-discrimination laws that ensure equal treatment for all people.”

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Masterpiece on December 5. For the latest on Masterpiece and other key pieces of litigation, visit FFAA’s Litigation Tracker.

Freedom for All Americans is the bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people nationwide. Our work brings together Republicans and Democrats, businesses large and small, people of faith, and allies from all walks of life to make the case for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally.

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