CHICAGO—In a 7-2 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court missed an opportunity to vociferously defend the rights of LGBTQ Americans to be free from discrimination when participating in public commerce. The decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was issued in favor of the baker, focusing on the manner in which the Colorado Civil Rights Commission adjudicated the matter, not on the underlying legal protections. While the decision does not create a license-to-discriminate, we had hoped for a stronger statement in support of the rights of Americans to be free from discrimination.
The Illinois Human Rights Act protects many peopleincluding LGBTQ peoplefrom discrimination in places of public accommodations. The decision issued in Masterpiece today does not limit the protections in our Human Rights Act.
Equality Illinois, the statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, calls on the leaders in Illinois to reaffirm our state's commitment to enforce our anti-discrimination law.
"We call on Gov. Bruce Rauner and his administration and Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan to vigorously uphold Illinois anti-discrimination statutes," said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois. "We cannot let any misreadings of this decision hurt the progress Illinois has made to protect LGBTQ civil rights."
You don't expect to see a sign with the words "Your Kind Not Welcome Here" displayed in Illinois in 2018. That's because, consistent with our values of fairness and freedom, the Illinois Human Rights Act bans discrimination by restaurants, hotels and other entities that serve the public. Since 2006, that Human Rights Act has protected lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people from far-reaching discrimination. In short, you can't be a business that claims to be open to all and then bar the door to LGBTQ people.
Those who support the Colorado bakery owner claim that the state should grant him a right to discriminate based on his religious beliefs. The First Amendment already protects the owner's freedom to practice his religion. "What the bakery owner sought was broader and more dangerous: a free pass to discriminate against LGBTQ people, or really any group of people, so long as he can claim his desire to discriminate stems from his religious beliefs," Johnson said. "We are grateful that the Supreme Court did not issue that free pass to discriminate today."
This is not just about a wedding cake. Rulings against public accommodations laws could legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination from cradle to grave. A hotel in Danville could turn away a gay couple. A restaurant in Rockford could refuse to serve a lesbian couple. A hospital in Moline could prevent a same-sex partner from visiting their loved one. A paramedic in Edwardsville could refuse to provide life-saving care. And a funeral home in Oak Park could refuse to prepare the body of a transgender person for burial. We already see some of these actions happening in states without anti-discrimination protections.
"This is not what Illinoisans want. We want a state where all peopleincluding LGBTQ peopleare equally welcomed in public spaces across the state," Johnson said.
In response to this ruling, Equality Illinois will collaborate with our legal partners and determine the best course of action to protect the Illinois Human Rights Act. Equality Illinois will also continue to educate and urge our elected officials to aggressively support our anti-discrimination laws and ensure we keep building a better Illinois.