Attorney General Tong Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Decision Allowing Business to Discriminate Against LGBTQ+ Customers
(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong released a statement today responding to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which allowed a Colorado web designer to refuse to build wedding websites for LGBTQ+ couples:
“This wrong and hurtful decision undermines state nondiscrimination laws at a time of rising threats and hostility targeting the LGBTQ+ community. This Supreme Court is destroying fundamental protections Americans have fought for and lived by for decades. Once again, this court is completely out of step with mainstream American views. Hate is bad for business. Businesses who discriminate against customers and refuse service to people based on who they love or how they identify will not be getting my business,” said Attorney General Tong.
Like Connecticut, Colorado forbids businesses from discriminating against customers based on sexual orientation and other protected characteristics like race, religion, and ethnicity. But the owner of 303 Creative, a web designer, refuses to build wedding websites for LGBTQ+ couples. A federal district court and a federal appellate court agreed that 303 Creative – like every other business – has to follow the state’s generally-applicable civil rights laws, since businesses can’t pick and choose which protected classes of customers they want to serve. But today, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed those lower court decisions.
Attorney General Tong filed an amicus brief in the case, noting that Connecticut’s public accommodation laws similarly forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The brief argued that the courts have long recognized that the right to free speech is not infringed by laws that prohibit businesses from turning away customers based on their race or other protected characteristics. Such laws regulate only conduct, the brief argues. Allowing private businesses to exempt themselves from nondiscrimination laws “on the basis of an ill-defined test based on ‘expression’ would dramatically undermine the states’ interests in eradicating discrimination and harms individuals and society at large.”