Shaheen, Kuster & Pappas Join More than 100 Members of Congress in Amicus Brief to Oppose Weakening of Nondiscrimination Laws in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis

August 23, 2022

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) alongside Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01), Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and New Hampshire’s first openly gay member of Congress, filed an amicus brief to defend nondiscrimination laws in the upcoming Supreme Court case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.

The brief was joined by 123 Representatives and 14 Senators. Although this case is a challenge to a Colorado nondiscrimination law, it potentially could be used to weaken federal nondiscrimination laws covering public accommodations – including race, religion, color, national origin and disability – more generally by providing a constitutional right to discriminate in certain instances against LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized groups.

“Nondiscrimination laws are at the heart of our ability to live freely and enjoy fundamental civil liberties. We’ve seen a devastating wave of attacks on civil liberties as of late, and this case poses the latest threat by opening the door to enabling discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals as a constitutional right. This case runs counter to our core values of freedom and equality, which is why I’m joining my colleagues in this amicus brief to protect nondiscrimination laws under assault. I’ll continue to stand with LGBTQ+ individuals as we work to build a more just society,” said Senator Shaheen.

“Hate and discrimination have no place in our communities, but it’s a reality far too many marginalized groups including LGBTQ+ people face,” said Representative Kuster. “Businesses that are open to the public should not be permitted to discriminate against people, no matter who they are or who they love. I was proud to help pass the Equality Act in the House and I will continue working to protect the rights of all Americans.”

“I know as a small business owner that when you open your doors to the public you must treat everyone fairly and equally,” said Representative Pappas, Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “This case threatens the freedom and dignity that all Americans deserve, including LGBTQ+ individuals who still can face discrimination today in far too many aspects of their lives. I urge the Court to reject this argument, uphold this nondiscrimination law, and ensure everyone is equal before the law.” 

303 Creative LLC v. Elenis was filed by a Colorado-based graphic designer who wants to make wedding websites in the future but does not want to create wedding websites for same-sex couples. Colorado law currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations. The Colorado law does not dictate what services a business provides but rather requires that a service offered to the general public be offered to all prospective customers without discriminating based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, or sexual orientation. The graphic designer is arguing that this law violates her First Amendment rights and that she should be able to discriminate. A broad ruling for the graphic designer could not only provide a constitutional basis for discriminating against same-sex couples, but also for discriminating against all marginalized people currently protected by public accommodations nondiscrimination laws.

Shaheen has long supported protections for LGBTQ+ couples and their families. Shaheen supports the Equality Act, which is the landmark bill banning discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans. In July, Shaheen joined a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough urging answers and speedy action to ensure same-sex veteran couples have access to the full and complete spousal benefits they are owed. Shaheen also introduced a bill - the Jury Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection (ACCESS) Act – to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ citizens during the federal jury selection process. Shaheen also led bipartisan legislation to impose sanctions on foreign individuals responsible for human rights violations against LGBTQ+ individuals abroad.

Pappas serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, Co-Chair of the House Small Business Caucus, and is New Hampshire’s first openly gay member of Congress. In his role as Co-Chair of the Equality Caucus, he has helped introduce and pass the Equality Act and the Respect for Marriage Act in the House of Representatives. Pappas also leads the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act, which would ban the use of so-called  “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses in federal court, and the SERVE Act, which would guarantee and protect VA benefits for LGBTQ+ veterans. In the 116th Congress, Pappas introduced the Put Patients First Act, which would have blocked a since-reversed Trump-Pence Administration rule that permitted discrimination in health care by allowing personal beliefs to dictate treatment and care.