Public Accommodations: Discrimination and Sexual Orientation

Public Accommodations: Discrimination and Sexual Orientation

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7961-8.ch004


The chapter examines potential issues posed by the wide variety of state public accommodation statutes in the context of sexual orientation and religious freedom. The historical approach to antidiscrimination will briefly be examined. A review of recent cases of discrimination due to the legalization of same-sex marriage are analyzed in the context of the arguments regarding freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
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Antidiscrimination And Value Changes

In 1964, for the first time since the end of Reconstruction, Congress enacted a law banning race discrimination in public accommodations, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is difficult today to understand why this law, which forbade hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and places of entertainment to discriminate based on race, color, or national origin, gave rise to such heated opposition and the longest filibuster in the history of the U.S. Senate. Landsberg (2015) in Public Accommodations and the Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Surprising Success? stated that “today, Title II gets little attention, while other non-discrimination laws, such as fair employment, fair housing, and voting rights legislation continue to produce litigation and garner public attention; yet, in 1963 and 1964, Title II was considered a key provision, as well as a very controversial one.” This is certainly not the case today with the legalization of same-sex marriage. The ascendancy of gay rights has been accompanied by a rise in assertions of religious freedom. These assertions have primarily taken the form of state legislative initiatives (Barbaro & Eckholm, 2015; Eilperin, 2014). Supporters have cited perceived growing threats and hostility to religious liberty as a basis for such initiatives. As illustrated in an interview conducted by Kristina Torres (2015) in Clergy Clash on ‘Religious Liberty’ Efforts at Capitol, the executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, J. Robert White states:

. . . if there has been discrimination in this country, quite honestly, it has been against people of Christian faith, and it must stop.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Miscegenation: People of different races having children together.

Public Accommodations: Defined as entities that are used by the public, whether they are publicly or privately operated. Examples include retail stores, rental establishments and service establishments, educational institutions, and recreational facilities. States with fully inclusive public accommodations discrimination protections have laws indicating that LGBT people may use these establishments like all other members of the public. Some states have laws protecting only LGB people from this kind of discrimination.

Invidious Discrimination: The treatment of a class of people unequally in a manner that is malicious, hostile, or damaging.

Civil Rights Act of 1964: Federal act passed to amend statutes passed after the Civil War to provide stronger protections for constitutional rights.

Fourteenth Amendment: Guarantees citizens of the United States due process and equal protection of the laws. The Supreme Court expanded the concepts to any societal function involving state action to prevent discrimination against individuals on the grounds of race, sex, religion, or age.

Compelled Speech: Transmission of expression required by law.

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