Illinois joins amicus brief defending anti-LGBTQ discrimination law

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a coalition of 20 state attorneys general, is defending the constitutionality of New York’s public accommodation law that forbids businesses engaged in sales to the public from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The coalition filed an amicus brief with the U.S Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit arguing that a business owner’s religious beliefs do not give them a right to discriminate against customers.

The brief was filed in Emilee Carpenter LLC v. James, a case in which a wedding photography business attempting to deny services to LGBTQ couples claims the New York public accommodations law violates the business owner’s rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.

“Discrimination has no place in our society, and no public business should be able to deny service based on who someone loves or how they identify,” Raoul said in a statement. “I am committed to standing with my fellow attorneys general to ensure all entities open to the public follow anti-discrimination laws.”  

In the brief, the coalition states they have strong interests in upholding laws to protect their residents and visitors from unlawful discrimination. The attorney generals say that they support civil rights protections for LGBTQ individuals, including prohibitions on discrimination in places of public accommodation like diners, stores and other businesses that are part of daily life in a free society.

The coalition argues that the First Amendment does not exempt businesses open to the public from state anti-discrimination laws. The brief also argues that exempting businesses from public accommodations laws on the basis of the First Amendment would undermine the vital benefits these laws provide to residents and visitors.

According to the brief, states across the country have enacted laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in the commercial marketplace. At least 23 states, including Illinois, and the District of Columbia expressly prohibit discriminatory advertising by public accommodations. 

The coalition also highlighted the severe and continuing issue of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ people are much more likely to be bullied, harassed, and attacked in hate crimes than their non-LGBTQ peers.  

Joining Raoul in Tuesday’s brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

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