Raúl Torrez | Attorney General

Attorney General Balderas Joins Supreme Court Brief Defending Constitutionality of Anti-Discrimination Laws

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 31, 2017

Contact: James Hallinan (505) 660-2216

Albuquerque, NM – Arguing that a business owner’s personal beliefs do not give him a right to discriminate against customers, Attorney General Hector Balderas late yesterday joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court defending the constitutionality of Colorado’s public accommodations law.

“Discrimination of same-sex couples and members of our LGBTQ community in New Mexico will not be tolerated, and it is critical that we fight together to protect all same-sex couples’ rights in the United States,” said Attorney General Balderas. “In New Mexico, we celebrate diversity. And our businesses thrive by serving all of our citizens regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.”

The brief was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The owner of the bakery is challenging the Colorado public accommodations law, claiming it violates his rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion. The attorneys general filed the brief in support of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the couple to whom Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to sell a wedding cake. 

In the brief, the attorneys general write that states across the country have enacted laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in the commercial marketplace, and that “these laws ensure equal access to goods and services and combat the severe personal, economic, and social harms caused by discrimination.” The attorneys general argue that, under a long line of Supreme Court precedent, requiring businesses to comply with such laws does not violate the Constitution.

The attorneys general further argue that the First Amendment exemption to public accommodations laws sought by the bakery would dramatically undermine anti-discrimination
laws.

“Allowing commercial businesses to use the First Amendment as a shield for discriminatory conduct would undermine state civil rights laws and the vital benefits they provide to residents and visitors, leaving behind a society separate and unequal by law. Many Americans would face exclusion from a host of everyday businesses or, at the very least, the ever-present threat that any business owner could refuse to serve them when they walk in the door—simply because of their sexual orientation, or their race, religion, or gender,” write the attorneys general.

Joining Attorney General Balderas in the amicus brief are the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois,
Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Please see attached for a copy of the brief.

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Raul Torrez

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