Brief Highlights Broad Local Support for Non-Discrimination Laws and Policies
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.–Today, the County of Santa Clara, California, led a coalition of 70 cities and counties, and 80 mayors across the nation in filing an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief with the United States Supreme Court, asking the Court to uphold important non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (“LGBTQ”) people.
The brief—authored by the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, and the New York City Law Department, and joined by a diverse group of cities, counties, and mayors—was filed in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The Supreme Court is reviewing the decision of the Colorado Court of Appeals, which affirmed the finding of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery, violated Colorado’s non-discrimination law by refusing to sell a wedding cake to Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a same-sex couple. Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner contend that because the owner has a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, they should be exempt from the enforcement of Colorado’s non-discrimination law based on First Amendment grounds. The brief supports the arguments of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the same-sex couple that the Constitution does not give businesses a right to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
“Equal treatment under the law is a bedrock principle of this country,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Ken Yeager. “Business owners have a legal obligation to treat each of their customers the same. When they open their doors to the public, they cannot pick and choose whom to serve.”
The brief argues that local governments have an important interest in the enforcement of state and local non-discrimination laws. It highlights the wide range of local laws and policies that cities and counties across the country have enacted to ensure equal treatment of LGBTQ people in a variety of contexts. The brief further argues that the First Amendment does not entitle Masterpiece Cakeshop to an exemption from generally applicable non-discrimination laws, and that such an exemption would undermine local governments’ ability to protect people in their communities from discrimination and other harms.
“Local governments provide a variety of essential programs and services to our communities,” said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese. “Santa Clara County is proud to stand with cities, counties, and mayors from across the nation in showing the Supreme Court how crucial these non-discrimination protections are to helping us meet the social, economic, physical, and environmental needs of our communities.”
Joining the County of Santa Clara and the Cities of New York and Los Angeles are 67 additional cities and counties, 80 mayors, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Click here to read the brief.
About the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office
The County Counsel serves as legal counsel to the County, its Board of Supervisors and elected officials, every County department and agency, and the County’s boards and commissions. With a staff of 170 employees, including 85 attorneys, the Office of the County Counsel is also responsible for all civil litigation involving the County and its officers. Through its Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section, the Office litigates high-impact cases, drafts innovative local ordinances, and develops policies and programs to advance social and economic justice.
About the County of Santa Clara, California
The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents. With a $6.5 billion annual budget, dozens of offices/departments, and over 18,000 employees, the County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and treatment, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many others, particularly for those in the greatest need. The County is the most populous in Northern California.