Sanford Jay Rosen, Andrew Spore and Michael Nunez of RBGG have filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on behalf of former Representative Tony Coelho (author of the Americans with Disabilities Act) and a number of the nation’s leading disability rights groups. A copy of the brief is available here. The “Summary of Argument” from the brief is set out below.
The organizations on the brief include National Federation of the Blind, National Association of the Deaf, American Council of the Blind, Disability Rights Bar Association, Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Civil Rights Education & Enforcement Center, Association of Late Deafened Adults, and Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT
In Obergefell v. Hodges, this Court secured equal dignity for same-sex couples by guaranteeing them their fundamental right to marry. 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2603 (2015). Consistent with the core of Obergefell, the CADA assures LGBTQ people equal dignity by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in and by places of public accommodation. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-601. Like its federal counterpart, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the CADA regulates economic conduct, with “[t]he fundamental object . . . to vindicate ‘the deprivation of personal dignity that surely accompanies denials of equal access to public establishments.’” Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241, 250 (1964) (quoting S.Rep.No.872, 88th Cong., 2d Sess., at 16-17).
In this case, a baker and his bakery seek a federal constitutional exception to this state antidiscrimination law that will allow the business, an undisputed place of public accommodation, to discriminate in the provision of its goods and services on the basis of sexual orientation. Antidiscrimination laws protect members of numerous historically excluded groups. If created, this defense will infect all antidiscrimination laws in our country and will have terrible consequences for all such protected groups, including people with disabilities.
Amici are dedicated to vindication of the dignity of individuals with disabilities through actions seeking to ensure and improve the rights of such individuals to full and equal participation in all aspects of our society. In the ADA, Congress provided a “broad mandate” meant “to remedy widespread discrimination against disabled individuals.” PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin, 532 U.S. 661, 674 (2001). The express purpose is “to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(2) (emphasis added). State and local laws, like the CADA, also protect people from discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as sexual orientation, race, and other invidious classifications.
The baker’s proposed exceptions to public accommodation laws would jeopardize the ADA’s promise of consistent and enforceable standards, and allow an individual’s professed scruples to supersede the rights of historically disadvantaged people to full participation in this nation’s economic and commercial life.
Here Amici marshal examples of First Amendment defenses already raised by opponents of full enforcement of the ADA, and past attempts to trammel constitutional and legal protections of blacks, women, and members of other constitutionally protected classes.