In 2008, we sponsored and passed Senate Bill 200, which updated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act to add protections for lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and queer Coloradans and their families. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to our state’s nearly decade-old law on Tuesday in the much-publicized Masterpiece vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case.
The fight for equal treatment for LGBTQ Coloradans and their families has spanned decades and faced constant, often hostile, opposition. Over the past 25 years, Colorado has enacted two citizen-initiated amendments to the Colorado Constitution designed to make LGBTQ people unequal to everyone else. The first, known as Amendment 2, worked to create a separate class of LGBTQ people. The second, known as Amendment 43, denied loving, committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry. While these two amendments often get the most attention in Colorado’s battle over LGBTQ equality, they are just two examples in a much longer journey. We worked to update the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act in 2008 to address this long history of discrimination in our state.
When we sponsored Senate Bill 200, we knew one basic thing was true: All hardworking people — including those who are lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender or queer — should be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state, and should have the opportunity to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families. That’s what updating the law was all about. Changing the law didn’t end all unfair treatment overnight, but it did provide one more tool to ensure that all people, including those who are LGBTQ, were treated fairly and equally in employment, housing and public spaces.
Now, these protections are at threat of being rolled back by the U.S. Supreme Court and could turn back all the progress our state has made — and the gains LGBTQ Americans have made in states all across our country.
This Masterpiece case isn’t just about bakeries refusing to sell products to same-sex couples. As a nation, we decided a long time ago that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms. If the U.S. Supreme Court created a license to discriminate, it would open a can of worms, lead to expensive lawsuits, and send a message to businesses that they have a right to impose a religious test on their customers before agreeing to serve them.
The Colorado we believe in is full of opportunity and freedom — where people who work hard and meet their responsibilities have the chance to get ahead. Updating our nondiscrimination law in 2008 helped ensure that all people, including those who are LGBTQ, had a fair opportunity to earn a living, meet their obligations, provide for themselves and their families, and build a better life. A Supreme Court ruling that gives businesses a broad license to discriminate based on religious beliefs about marriage would open the floodgates to discrimination not just against same-sex couples, but also against unmarried couples, single parents and others across a wide array of areas and businesses. That isn’t who we are as Coloradans and that isn’t the state we want to live in.
Joel Judd and Jennifer Veiga, both Democrats, are former Colorado legislators representing Denver.