This Week in Nondiscrimination: Important Anniversaries, Movement in the Courts, Another Bad Bill in OH, and a Maryland Candidate Makes History

By Shane Stahl • June 29, 2018 • 4:06 pm

This week in nondiscrimination, we saw the commemoration of two important anniversaries — 49 years since the Stonewall Uprising in New York City, and 15 years since the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case, which found laws criminalizing homosexuality unconstitutional. Additionally, the Supreme Court sent the case of Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, which is very similar to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, back to a lower state court for reconsideration, and arguments were scheduled for a similar case in Colorado this September. Meanwhile, another anti-LGBTQ bill was introduced by lawmakers in Ohio, but in Maryland, an openly transgender candidate made history with her election. Below, check out our collection of the stories you may have missed for the final week of June 2018.

WASHINGTON

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court took action in the case of Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, which involves a flower shop that denied service to a same sex couple by claiming a religious exemption to Washington state’s existing nondiscrimination law.

The high court vacated a Washington Supreme Court ruling against the plaintiff and sent the case back to that court for reconsideration. This means that the case may again go before the U.S. Supreme Court for consideration, pending the outcome of a new ruling.

In sending the case back, the Justices again effectively rejected anti-LGBTQ opponents’ crusade for a broad license to discriminate against LGBTQ people;; three weeks ago in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the Justices ruled that the plaintiff in that case received an improper decision from the Colorado Civil Rights Division, the first body to take up the complaint, claiming that the group violated the plaintiff’s rights under the Free Expression Clause of the 1st Amendment. However, the Justices did not grant the plaintiffs’ request for a broad license to discriminate, in fact reaffirming within the ruling the importance of LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws and asserting again that businesses open to the public must be #OpenToAll..

COLORADO

This week, arguments were scheduled in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for September 25  in the case of 303 Creative v. Elenis, concerning a website designer wishing to preempt Colorado’s existing nondiscrimination law and refuse service to same-sex couples, citing a religious objection.

The case is the second such discrimination case of its kind to arise in the Centennial State, following the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which found its way to the Supreme Court in December of last year.

In September 2017, a federal judge dismissed the graphic designer’s case, saying she did not have standing to challenge the state’s existing public accommodations protections. The plaintiff’s attorneys, notoriously anti-LGBTQ extremists Alliance Defending Freedom, filed an appeal with the 10th Circuit, which was originally scheduled for May, but then canceled and postponed.

NEW YORK

Thursday marked the 49th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, a watershed moment in LGBTQ history that saw the community fight back against discriminatory law enforcement practices and kicked off the LGBTQ equality movement.

In the early hours of June 28, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, known as a place for LGBTQ people to gather and feel safe. However, instead of cooperating, dozens of community members fought back against the police over two nights, largely led by Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, both transgender women of color.

In the years since, Stonewall Inn itself has been designated a historical landmark, and in 2016, President Barack Obama announced the creation of national Stonewall memorial that will cover an 8 acre swath of land, including the building itself, in New York City. Read more details about the uprising here.

TEXAS

Tuesday marked 15 years since the landmark Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court case, which struck down laws criminalizing homosexuality as unconstitutional, outlawing states from banning intimacy and sex between adult same-sex couples.

The case involved John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested in 1998 for “deviant behavior” after police forcibly entered Lawrence’s apartment in response to a false weapons disturbance. The two men pleaded no contest, which allowed them to challenge the law’s constitutionality.  In 2003, by a vote of 6-3, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Texas law was unconstitutional.

The ruling also caused 15 other states with similar laws on the books to declare them null and void. Twelve years later, Tuesday, June 26 become the day that same-sex couples won the freedom to marry nationwide at the U.S. Supreme Court.

MARYLAND

On Tuesday, Sharon Brackett made history by becoming the first openly transgender woman elected to public office in Maryland.

Brackett was elected to serve on the 46th District Democratic Central Committee representing the neighborhoods of Canton, Locust Point, Federal Hill, Brooklyn, Curtis Bay and Cherry Hill located in Baltimore City; Brackett won her seat in a highly contested primary with 14 other candidates.

Brackett said after her victory: “I would like to believe that being trans is the least interesting thing about me but I recognize the significance and the importance that this moment brings especially to thousands of trans individuals like myself who may have previously thought public office was unattainable. Tonight’s victory is a testament that with hard work, dedication and an ‘infectious optimism’ that regardless of gender identity one can serve the public in any capacity.”

OHIO

Following last week’s introduction of a bill that would force schools to out transgender students to their parents or face a felony charge, lawmakers this week revived a long-dormant bill called the Pastor Protection Act, which would allow undefined “religious societies” to potentially discriminate against LGBTQ couples seeking to marry with regard to public accommodations. The bill was voted out of committee and moved to the floor of the House; however, no further action was taken before the legislative body agreed to resign for a break until November.

In a statement, Equality Ohio executive director Alana Jochum said:

“The problem with the bill is not that clergy can choose not to marry someone if it goes against their faith. They currently have–and should have–that right. It is that the bill goes further, and allows for undefined ‘religious societies’ to discriminate against couples seeking to marry with regard to public accommodations. This means that  couples of all sorts––including interfaith couples and interracial couples, who are currently protected under state law––could experience discrimination in accessing a Knights of Columbus hall for a wedding reception, for example. Property and services rented to the public at large must be available to all, regardless of race, sex, religion and other protected characteristics.”

Ohio’s legislative sessions run year round, so the stage will be set following the 2018 election for possible contentious debate over the two proposed pieces of legislation. Conversely, legislation known as the Ohio Fairness Act, which would enact statewide comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, has had its second committee hearing in the House, and needs one more before it can go to the floor for debate.


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