Many LGBTQ+ people are still facing discrimination from some business owners, according to a report from NBC News. Same-sex couples are still being turned away by businesses on the grounds that performing the requested services would violate religious beliefs of the business owner or service provider. Defenders of the discriminatory practices claim Constitutional cover, while at least one advocacy groups expressed concern.
“We have seen a significant rise and a very troubling rise in these cases, and it's not an accident,” Jennifer Pizer, law and policy director for Lambda Legal, told NBC News.
She blamed conservative religious legal groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom for filing lawsuits in defense of bigoted and discriminatory clients.
“They want to get legal rulings that there are religious and free speech rights to violate these laws,” she said.
“It just kind of makes your heart fall into your stomach,” Amy Mudd said of how she and wife Stephanie felt when they saw a sign on the door of Aries Tax Service in Radcliff, Kentucky, saying “Homosexual marriage not recognized” as they arrived for their appointment on April 3.
“We wanted to bring attention to it, so that he knows that that's not OK,” Mudd said of Aries Tax Service. “Nowadays, you're providing a public service, and it's federal taxes, and in the United States, it's OK for us to be married.”
Kenneth Randall, owner of Aries Tax Services, said he had plenty of gay clients, but “personal conviction” prevented him from providing any services that would recognize marriage equality.
“If you have a matter that’s a central conviction to you, are you willing to stand up for it?” he asked. “I am.”
He also added he’s not the only tax preparer in town and beleives that his actions are protected by federal law. Recent court decisions are mixed, though. The U.S. Supreme Court found in favor of a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2018, but only on a technicality and not the issue of the case itself. The Washington Supreme Court ruled against a florist who refused to provide services for a gay wedding the following year, but the decision only applies to the state of Washington. Other cases are currently working through the courts as well.
Regardless of the rulings, Pizer disagreed with Randall that he is protected by the law, saying he cannot claim protections as a creative professional because he’s a tax accountant.
“When we’re operating in the public marketplace, being asked to stop discriminating is not to suffer discrimination yourself,” Pizer said. “It’s to be invited to play by the same rules that everybody else is expected to play by.”