- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Leads Coalition in Defending Constitutionality of Anti-Discrimination Laws
Boston — Attorney General Maura Healey today joined with Hawaii Acting Attorney General Russell Suzuki and a coalition of 17 other attorneys general in filing an amicus brief defending the constitutionality of Minnesota’s anti-discrimination law.
The brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in the case of Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey. The case was brought by the owners of a videography service who do not want to offer their wedding-related services to same-sex couples as required under the Minnesota public accommodations law. They are challenging the law, claiming it violates their freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.
“A business owner cannot pick and choose who they’ll serve based on discriminatory personal beliefs,” said AG Healey. We are filing this brief to stand up for the fair and equal treatment of all Americans, and to ensure that all individuals are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve under the law.”
The attorneys general filed the brief in support of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, defending the constitutionality of the Minnesota public accommodations law.
In the brief, the attorneys general write that states across the country have enacted laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in the commercial marketplace, and that “these laws ensure equal enjoyment of goods and services and combat the severe personal, economic, and social harms caused by discrimination.” The attorneys general argue that, under a long line of Supreme Court precedent, requiring businesses to comply with such laws does not violate the Constitution.
The attorneys general further argue that the First Amendment exemption to public accommodations laws sought by the business would dramatically undermine anti-discrimination laws.
The attorneys general write, “Allowing commercial businesses to use the First Amendment as a shield for discriminatory conduct would undermine state civil rights laws and the vital benefits they provide to residents and visitors, leaving behind a society separate and unequal by law. Many Americans would face exclusion from a host of everyday businesses or, at the very least, the ever-present threat that any business owner could refuse to serve them when they walk in the door—simply because of their sexual orientation, or their race, religion, or gender.”
AG Healey and Acting AG Suzuki previously filed a multistate amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in the pending case Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where the owner of a bakery is challenging Colorado’s public accommodations law.
Joining AG Healey and Acting AG Suzuki in the amicus brief in support of Minnesota are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C.
Today’s brief follows many steps taken by AG Healey to protect and expand the rights of LGBTQ people.
When she was an assistant attorney general at the AG’s Office, AG Healey served as the lead attorney on the first successful challenge brought by a state to the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act, prevailing when a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled DOMA was unconstitutional.
In 2015, AG Healey led a coalition of states in filing a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the Constitution requires marriage equality nationwide—the position the Court ultimately adopted.
In 2016, AG Healey worked closely with advocates, the business community, and transgender families to successfully garner support for the Public Accommodations Law, one of the strongest transgender protection bills in the country, protecting transgender people from discrimination in places of public accommodation including restaurants, movie theaters, hospitals, and parks.
Last year, AG Healey led a coalition of attorneys general in filing amicus briefs in multiple cases strongly opposing the Trump Administration’s plan to ban military service by transgender service members.
AG Healey has also partnered with the medical community to hold trainings to teach hospital personnel best practices in improving access to medical care for LGBTQ patients across the state.
The AG’s Office also hosts a wide variety of outreach events for the LGBTQ community throughout the state, at which AG staff meet directly with members of the LGBTQ community to inform them of their rights under the law and how the AG’s Office can assist them.
The amicus brief was handled in Massachusetts by State Solicitor Bessie Dewar, Assistant State Solicitor David Kravitz, and Assistant Attorney General Jon Burke and Division Chief Genevieve Nadeau, both of the AG’s Civil Rights Division, and in Hawaii by Solicitor General Clyde Wadsworth and Deputy Solicitor General Kalikoʻonalani Fernandes.