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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
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May 17, 2022

ATTORNEY GENERAL RAOUL JOINS COALITION DEFENDING ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW

Case Involves New York Wedding Photographer’s Intent to Refuse Service to LGBTQ+ Couples

Chicago  — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a coalition of 20 attorneys general, is defending the constitutionality of New York’s public accommodation law that forbids businesses engaged in sales to the public from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The coalition filed an amicus brief with the U.S Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit arguing that a business owner’s religious beliefs do not give them a right to discriminate against customers.

The brief was filed in Emilee Carpenter LLC v. James, a case in which a wedding photography business attempting to deny services to LGBTQ+ couples argues the New York public accommodations law violates the business owner’s rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.

“Discrimination has no place in our society, and no public business should be able to deny service based on who someone loves or how they identify,” Raoul said. “I am committed to standing with my fellow attorneys general to ensure all entities open to the public follow anti-discrimination laws.”

In their brief, Raoul and the coalition state they have strong interests in upholding laws to protect their residents and visitors from unlawful discrimination. Raoul and the attorney generals say that they support civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, including prohibitions on discrimination in places of public accommodation like diners, stores and other businesses that are part of daily life in a free society.

The coalition argues that the First Amendment does not exempt businesses open to the public from state anti-discrimination laws. The brief also argues that exempting businesses from public accommodations laws on the basis of the First Amendment would undermine the vital benefits these laws provide to residents and visitors:

“Many Americans would face exclusion from a host of everyday businesses or, at the very least, face 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 sex.”

According to the brief, states across the country have enacted laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the commercial marketplace. At least 23 states – including Illinois –and the District of Columbia expressly prohibit discriminatory advertising by public accommodations.

The coalition also highlights the severe and continuing issue of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ Americans are much more likely to be bullied, harassed, and attacked in hate crimes than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. According to the brief, this continuing discrimination harms the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ people, their families, and their communities, which is reflected in increased rates of mental health disorders and suicide attempts, especially for LGBTQ+ youth.

Attorney General Raoul has taken an active role in defending the rights of LGBTQ+ people during his tenure. He led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Attorney General Raoul’s Civil Rights Bureau protects the civil rights of all Illinois residents. The bureau enforces civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination, works to strengthen civil rights laws and participates in community outreach programs. The bureau also investigates complaints of patterns and practices of discrimination in housing, public accommodations, employment and financial matters.

Joining Raoul in today’s brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

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