Amicus brief filed in Masterpiece Cakeshop case uses stories from LGBTQ families to demonstrate real, everyday harm caused by anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
October 30, 2017 — For Immediate Release
NEW YORK — Today Family Equality Council is proud to join with Lambda Legal in filing an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The significance of the Supreme Court’s decision in this case for LGBTQ families cannot be underestimated: the rights of LGBTQ individuals, families, and children to access businesses and other places of public accommodation without discrimination are at stake.
Building on the success of past “Voices of Children” amicus briefs, Family Equality Council worked with our national network of LGBTQ families to source stories of parents and their children who have experienced the type of discrimination that would be encouraged and emboldened nationwide if the petitioners in the Masterpiece case are successful. Some of these stories are included in the brief filed with the Supreme Court, and Family Equality Council is deeply grateful, as always, to all the families who willingly shared their stories in support of our fight to protect our right to legal and lived equality.
“We must be crystal clear: this case is not about a wedding cake. It is about discrimination.” says Family Equality Council CEO Rev. Stan J. Sloan. “As our brief makes clear, LGBTQ people face discrimination in a wide variety of public settings. No business open to the public has a constitutional right to discriminate against a customer, and granting a business such a right — whether in the name of religion, speech, or not — would create a sweeping license to discriminate that would have far-reaching, damaging consequences for LGBTQ individuals, parents, and their children.”
Stories shared by Family Equality Council supporters and included in the brief filed today include that of a married, same-sex couple living in Tennessee who experienced several instances of discrimination as they planned and began their family. They were denied service by several midwives due to the providers’ religious beliefs, were turned away from a birthing class, and then later, following the birth of their child, denied service again when seeking to enroll their son in a childcare facility. Another story came from a lesbian couple in Texas whose child suffered an accident and knocked out her front tooth. The pediatric dentist would not treat the child without the biological mother — the “real mother” — present, despite the fact that both mothers were legally recognized parents. These stories, and many like them, highlight the discrimination LGBTQ parents and their children experience in the course of their daily lives.
“LGBTQ parents and their children suffer real harm due to discrimination every day,” said Shelbi Day, Senior Policy Counsel at Family Equality Council. “Through the voices of LGBTQ individuals and their loved ones, this brief demonstrates the real-life harm that results from discrimination and the danger of allowing any exception to non-discrimination protections.”
“We and the Family Equality Council have over the years received more than a thousand reports from across the country detailing discrimination in wide-ranging public accommodations contexts — literally from cradle to grave,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Lambda Legal Senior Counsel, and Law & Policy Director. “These include, for example, the lesbian couple denied infertility treatment by a San Diego-area OB/GYN practice in 1999, an Iowa wedding venue that refused to rent event space to a gay couple for their wedding in 2013, and a New Jersey hospital that refused to perform a routine hysterectomy for a transgender man in January. This is why nondiscrimination laws like Colorado’s are so important so that people can live their lives without fearing that, at any moment, they may be turned away or verbally abused just for who they are.”
In the United States, it was decided over 50 years ago that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms, and that includes LGBTQ people. A Supreme Court ruling in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop — and allowing discrimination — would turn the constitution’s promise of equal treatment under the law on its head. The ripple effects of such a ruling would spread far beyond the LGBTQ community and would place long-standing laws against discrimination in jeopardy across the country. Family Equality Council calls on the Supreme Court to hear the voices of individuals and families who experience discrimination daily across the country and to reaffirm our nation’s commitment to equal treatment under the law, and to the idea that businesses should be open to all. We must not return to an era where businesses are permitted to hang a sign in the window saying, “we don’t serve your kind here.”
About Family Equality Council
Family Equality Council advances legal and lived equality for LGBTQ families, and for those who wish to form them, through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change. Family Equality Council believes every LGBTQ person should have the right and opportunity to form and sustain a loving family, regardless of who they are or where they live.