Ahead of Supreme Court Argument, CAP Brief Shows Harms of Refusing Service to LGBTQ People

Washington, D.C. — As the U.S. Supreme Court gets ready to hear arguments next week in the case of a Colorado bakery that refuses to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress details the harms LGBTQ people face when being denied service at bakeries, florists, and other businesses.

Lower courts have agreed that such discrimination violates Colorado law explicitly protecting LGBTQ people from being refused service in stores and other places of public accommodation. Allowing businesses to turn away same-sex couples would undermine decades of legal precedents banning businesses from discriminating against other minority groups. As detailed in the brief, there are multiple harms to same-sex couples who are denied the same options heterosexual couples have.

“The brief shows how service refusals act like a one-two punch, causing psychological, emotional, and physical harm, as well as making it harder for LGBTQ people to access services at all,” said Caitlin Rooney, co-author of the report.

The brief is bolstered by new data from a survey of LGBTQ people that shows it would be difficult for many to find alternative services if they were turned away from retailers—especially for those living in small towns and rural areas.

For example, 21 percent of those surveyed said it would be “very difficult” or “not possible” to find the same type of service at a different retail store selling wedding attire. That figure rises to 39 percent for LGBTQ people not living in a metropolitan area.

The CAP survey shows that significant numbers of nonmetro LGBTQ people would be hard pressed to find alternatives if they were turned away from retail stores, bakeries, or florists. The data show that, contrary to conservatives’ arguments, it is often not possible for LGBTQ people to simply take their business elsewhere.

Read the issue brief: “The Harms of Refusing Service to LGBTQ People and Other Marginalized Communities” by Caitlin Rooney and Laura E. Durso.

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For more information or to speak to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at 202.478.6327 or shananel@americanprogress.org.