SCOTUS Business Decision Means Inclusive Businesses Must Lead to Protect Vulnerable Communities
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis, a case where a business sought a license to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBTQ customers. And while the decision was a narrow and highly fact-specific one, it represents a discouraging step backwards when it comes to a core, shared American value: that when a business opens its doors to the public, it should be open to all.
Every business, from small businesses on Main Street to large retail stores anchoring malls across America, should take last week’s decision as an urgent call to action, declaring their doors open for business–and closed to the misguided notion that free speech can or should nullify civil rights in America. Nobody should be refused service just because of who they are.
All of us deserve to be treated fairly and go about our daily lives without the fear of discrimination or being turned away from a business that opens its doors to the public. So, it’s shocking to learn that 28 states don’t have laws that explicitly protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in the places we visit every day–grocery stores, restaurants, and retail stores. It’s also surprising to realize that there are other major gaps in our federal nondiscrimination laws that mean people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, and others aren’t protected from discrimination in retail stores, shopping malls, and similar places.
The Equality Act, now before Congress, would update our nation’s non-discrimination law to close those gaps and extend those vital protections. It would expand the types of public places where discrimination would be illegal under federal law for everyone and add explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and women. Open to All® and Yelp, as well as our coalition of nearly 700,000 inclusive businesses, are proud to be among the companies across the country supporting the Equality Act. We know that it’s important to make sure that customers, as well as employees and their families, are protected from discrimination.
While the Equality Act makes its way through Congress, businesses need to take the lead. Many leading companies, as well as small business owners, have already played instrumental roles in advancing nondiscrimination protections across the country, recognizing that fairness is good for business–and that when a business decides to open its doors to the public, it should be open to everyone, on the same terms.
That’s why we started Open to All®, a nonprofit nondiscrimination program that believes everyone should be welcome regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, immigration status, religion, or disability. Over the past five years, we’ve brought together 200+ nonprofit partners, 80+ corporate partners, and nearly 700,000 businesses dedicated to sounding a loud and clear message: We will not return to a time when customers are told, “We don’t serve your kind here.” Businesses around the country have already taken the pledge to maintain welcoming and safe environments for all employees, visitors, customers, vendors, and clients. You can find Open to All decals and placards in storefronts in cities and towns across the country.
We know that businesses large and small can be powerful forces to create inclusive environments, especially in light of decisions like 303 Creative. Join us and become visible and vocal supporters of local, state, and federal nondiscrimination laws, and build cultures of inclusion and belonging in your own ranks. The time for organizations to live their values is right now–before more people are turned away from businesses simply because of who they are.