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Supreme Court to hear discrimination based on "religious freedom" case

The Supreme Court has announced that it plans to hear a discrimination case involving a bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. The Colorado-area bakery asserted that it was against their “religion” to sell to a gay couple. The bakery was found guilty of discrimination. Similarly a florist in Washington state refused to provide flower for a same-sex wedding. She was fined for violated Washington state’s law against discrimination. In both instances. the merchants are asserting their “religious freedoms” rights as rationale for denying service.

Colorado courts ruled in favor of couple, explaining that the state's public accommodation law bans discrimination by companies offering their services to the public. They further noted that while the business can continue to espouse its religious beliefs, it cannot operate at as a “public accommodation and conduct business” if it discriminates. This matter will be heard by the Supreme Court, with the baker challenging the law pursuant to the first amendment.

Currently, no comparable federal law exists prohibiting businesses from discriminating against customers. Rather, state and local laws may govern whether discrimination is permissible. Colorado has prohibited business from discriminating against the LGBTQ community, whereas other states have tried to pass laws allowing businesses to discriminate on the basis of “religious freedom.” How the outcome of this case will affect federal law is unknown.

Note however, federal laws exist protecting against discrimination in the work place, including sex discrimination. Courts have increasingly recognized this sex discrimination to extend to and incorporate sexual orientation discrimination.

If you believe that you have experienced any form of employment discrimination, please contact our experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Beal LLP for an immediate consultation.

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