The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Friday that sided with a web designer in Colorado’s right to discriminate against same-sex couples overrode a state law and inflamed LGBTQ advocates in the Bay Area.
The court held that First Amendment free speech prohibits a business owner from being forced to create content that runs afoul of their beliefs.
“The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as government demands,” said Justice Neil Gorsuch in the majority opinion, which was decided in a 6-3 vote.
Those who disagree with the decision fear that “religious freedom” can now be used to discriminate against protected classes and worry that it will have a profound impact on anti-discrimination laws for protected classes all over the country.
Dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that the decision targets conduct, not speech, and that discrimination has never before been identified as an expression that should be protected.
‘Dangerous and horrifying’
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, released a statement Friday decrying the decision.
“This ruling is dangerous and horrifying,” he said. “It has massive implications for LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws in employment, housing, and other contexts. The Court is taking us down a road where discrimination against LGBTQ people is constitutionally protected.”
San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu called the decision “unprecedented” and said his office filed an amicus brief in the case along with 19 mayors and 53 cities and counties across the country urging the court to affirm a lower court ruling that upheld the Colorado anti-discrimination law.
“This Supreme Court is yet again on the wrong side of history,” Chiu said. “The Court’s decision is heartbreaking and bigoted.”
Chiu added that the decision will “create a chilling effect” and lower participation in public life for LGBTQ people and local economies.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta sent an amicus brief last August along with 21 other attorneys general urging the high court to reject the case.
On Friday, Bonta said the decision was disheartening and sets back a common law principle first enacted after the Civil War.
“These laws ensure that everyone, irrespective of their background or identity, can access goods and services without fear of exclusion,” Bonta said.
Biden weighs in
President Joe Biden also released a statement on the ruling.
“In America, no person should face discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love,” he said, adding that the decision “undermines that basic truth, and painfully comes during Pride month.”
Biden said he was also “deeply concerned” that the decision will open the door to more discrimination against LGBTQ Americans.
“When one group’s dignity and equality are threatened, the promise of our democracy is threatened and we all suffer.”President Joe Biden
The president also said that the decision rolls back a long-held legal standard in the country that discrimination in public accommodations is prohibited, citing specifically people of color, with disabilities, women and people of faith.
“When one group’s dignity and equality are threatened, the promise of our democracy is threatened and we all suffer,” Biden said.