Small Businesses Support LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in U.S. Supreme Court Case

By Adam Polaski • October 30, 2017 • 3:11 pm

Small business owners joined together today to send a clear message that businesses open to the public must serve all. Main Street Alliance, the American Independent Business Alliance, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce submitted the brief in the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case today, and collectively represent more than 61,000 small businesses across the country. The brief argues that nondiscrimination laws – which enjoy strong support among small business owners – are fundamentally good for business and essential to the communities in which businesses operate.

Freedom for All Americans is proud to have partnered with these organizations on the development and outreach for this brief, amplifying the argument and identifying key small businesses to add their voices and stories to the narrative.

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 itself 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.

Amanda Ballantyne, Main Street Alliance’s National Director, said today:

“Main Street Alliance members have a long history of standing up and advocating for all members of our communities to be treated fairly and equally – under the law and in accordance with basic human dignity. This is a particularly important moment for small business owners. A bad ruling in this case would have wide-reaching and adverse consequences that impact every community and disrupt the vitality of the local economies.”

Jeff Seabold, founder of Seabold Architectural Studio, said:

“We take pride in collaborating with our customers to bring to life their visions for a space. It’s a process that we view as a mix between art and science – but it’s also our business. And when you run a small business, you understand the importance of growing your customer base and constantly striving to meet their needs. Turning customers away isn’t just wrong – it’s not a smart business move.”

In the brief, the businesses argue that nondiscrimination policies – like the one in Colorado – are good for business: “Public accommodations laws are good for business. Study after study shows that business—and small businesses in particular—suffer considerable negative economic consequences when operating under laws that permit discrimination. Because discriminatory business conduct by any one business hurts the bottom line for all businesses in the community, Amici’s small businesses overwhelmingly oppose it.”

In fact, small business owners overwhelmingly support nondiscrimination protections – and reject the notion that any small business owner should be able to reject customers just because of their religious beliefs. A 2015 poll from Small Business Majority, the Center for American Progress, and American Unity Fund found:

  • Two-thirds of small business owners don’t believe businesses should be able to deny goods or services to LGBT people based solely on their religious beliefs.
  • Eighty percent of small business owners support federal protections for LGBT people covering public accommodations – public spaces like restaurants, shops, hotels, and parks.
  • Nearly 60 percent of small business owners reject laws that would allow individuals and businesses to legally refuse service to LGBT people based on religious beliefs.

Jennifer Rockne, Co-director of the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), said:

“The plaintiff’s wish for a right to discriminate is completely unrepresentative of America’s independent businesses. Independent business owners have no desire to reverse civil rights progress and legalize discrimination.” Rockne notes that AMIBA’s recent ‘We Welcome Everybody’ window decals, which include a clear anti-discrimination message, is the most popular item the organization has ever produced.

And Dennis Porter, owner of Happy Faces Entertainment, a small business featured in the brief, said:

“Each and every day, we offer unique and customized entertainment packages – because that’s what our business is about. We don’t believe it’s in the best interest of our business to deny customers our services just because of who they are or who they love. We firmly believe that as a public business, we have a responsibility to serve the entire public.”

Read the full brief here. 

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