Mayors of Carrboro and Chapel Hill have both signed amicus briefs in support of an upcoming anti-discrimination Supreme court case involving religious belief, free speech and gay rights.
Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is a potential landmark case that could set a judicial precedent concerning first-amendment rights. In July 2012 a gay couple in Colorado was denied a wedding cake as the owner claimed doing so would violate his religious beliefs. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission is arguing that the bakery illegally discriminated against the couple when they were refused service.
An amicus brief is submitted by a group or individual who is not directly involved with a case but who believes the case will have an impact on their own interests. Over 150 mayors across the nation have signed this brief as part of the Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination coalition.
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said while this might be a national case, it’s still important for local governments to get involved.
“(The case) has broad implications whether our businesses that we allow to operate within our town are allowed to serve just people they chose to want to serve,” Lavelle said. “Businesses who serve the public should serve all members of the public. There’s really no question about that.”
The Town of Carrboro has historically been known for being progressive and fast-acting with national issues.
“When this came up (the Aldermen) all said right away that this is something we want to sign onto because this is consistent with positions that we have held for decades and policies that we have supported long before there were court cases that we could stand behind,” said Carrboro Aldermen member Randee Haven-O’Donnell.
For Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger, choosing to sign the brief was not a difficult choice either.
“It’s important to stick together and stand up for people’s rights and what your town values are at a national level, as well as a local level,” Hemminger said. “I really want to support everyone being treated equally and not being discriminated against.”
Both Lavelle and Hemminger saw supporting the amicus brief as a way to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, and send a positive message to their community.
“It was really a very efficient, inexpensive way to show our support for all our members of the community,” said Lavelle.
The Supreme Court will begin to hear oral arguments on Dec. 5, 2017.
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