Boulder County has joined more than 50 jurisdictions across the U.S. in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to defend Colorado’s anti-discrimination law. The brief was filed ahead of the high court’s hearing with a Denver business owner who is requesting the right to deny custom wedding website services for same-sex couples.
On Tuesday, Boulder County announced that is had joined other jurisdictions that have signed the brief, according to a county news release. An amicus brief is put together by a person or group to petition a court for permission to submit a brief intending to influence the court’s decision.
“Boulder County has a critical interest in the enforcement of nondiscrimination laws and believes discrimination imposes significant harm to everyone in our community,” Boulder County commissioner Claire Levy said in the news release. “The county believes that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Colorado’s public accommodations law would impede our efforts to protect the health and welfare of our community, which is why the Board of County Commissioners felt it was crucial for Boulder County to make our position clear to the court. As the first county to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple in 1975, we have long had a voice in defense of LGBTQ rights and we will continue to do so.”
The brief was filed as part of the U.S. Supreme Court case with Denver-based web designer and owner of 303 Creative, Lorie Smith, the release said. Smith wants to expand her business to include wedding websites but because she opposes same-sex marriage, she does not want to design websites for same-sex weddings, according to the petition.
Under Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws, public businesses are prohibited from discriminating and declaring their intent to do so.
The Supreme Court will hear the case this fall and will decide whether the state’s public accommodation law violates a person’s free speech when requiring a business to offer equal services to all customers.
Smith sued Colorado over its anti-discrimination law in 2016, hoping to block its enforcement. The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado ruled against her in 2019 and when she appealed, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the court’s decision.
Lindsay Shaw, owner of Lindsay’s Boulder Deli at Haagen-Dazs on Pearl Street, said it’s cool to know Boulder County was the first county in the state to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. She added she has now been a business owner for 18 years and said she has felt nothing but support from the Boulder community.
“In my job, it is so important to me that it is a safe place to whether you are gay, straight, transgender, a person of color or whatever,” Shaw said.
She said the U.S. Supreme Court hearing with Smith, is a soft spot for her. Before she opened her business, she worked at Jewish day school but lost her job because she is a lesbian, Shaw said.
“I got another teaching job at another Jewish day school, but they were super up front and said, ‘You cannot tell anyone who you are dating,’” said Shaw, owner of Lindsay’s Boulder Deli at Haagen-Dazs on Pearl Street. “I love being Jewish and loved working at a Jewish day school. It really bummed me out that this religion that I stood for was not supporting me.”
John Tayer, president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, said it’s important to stand up for and to protect the rights of every individual regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.
“We are supporters of making Boulder and Boulder County as welcoming as possible to not only residents but the workforce, and we recognize that to do that, it’s important that government entities stand up for principles of inclusivity,” he said.