LGBTQ+ community reacts to SCOTUS ruling that seemingly opens way to discrimination in business settings

The most chaotic and controversial Pride month ended with a gut punch to the LGBTQ+ community when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that businesses, citing religious beliefs, could refuse to do business with members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The court’s 6-3 decision is a devastating blow to LGBTQ+ protections, which have been bolstered by landmark decisions in recent years. It’s fair to wonder when (not if) the court will be presented with the opportunity to revisit its ruling on gay marriage.

The impact on the business community could be more immediate.

Incredibly, the ruling comes just months after New Jersey’s LGBTQ+ business community got perhaps its biggest win. In April, the state opened a portal where LGBTQ+ owned business could apply for certification — opening the door for more opportunities.

Now, such a portal could be used against the community.

Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, said he was stunned.

“All of us at Garden State Equality are deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s recent decision, which allows businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ customers under the guise of the First Amendment,” he said.

“This ruling undermines the hard-fought progress made in establishing non-discrimination laws and sends a distressing message that certain businesses can deny services based on personal beliefs, diluting the legal protections of the LGBTQ+ community and eroding the principles of equality and fairness for all. This decision undermines the progress that New Jersey and many other states have made in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all residents, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We will continue to fight against discrimination and uphold the values that make New Jersey a beacon of equality and acceptance.”

Gus Penaranda, the executive director of the New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber does not comment specifically on rulings, but said it will continue to promote openness and fairness for all. Especially in the business world.

“The New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce along with its partners and allies will continue to promote the benefits and opportunities that come with working with all diverse communities, especially the LGBTQIA+ community,” he said. “As a nonpolitical organization, we do not officially comment on recent decisions, but we will continue to make New Jersey the go-to state for LGBTQIA+ businesses, ally businesses, entrepreneurs and their families.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) didn’t hold back.

“With today’s decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the right-wing majority continues to cement its legacy as the first Supreme Court in a generation to brazenly strip away hard-fought rights from marginalized communities — further deepening the systemic inequities that persist in our nation,” he said.

“This decision effectively grants businesses across the country an open license to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, and, as Justice (Sonia) Sotomayor observed in her forceful dissent, marks LGBTQ+ Americans as second-class citizens. Worse yet, this decision could serve as a dangerous precedent for future cases in which other protected classes of Americans are targeted for discrimination.”

Friday’s ruling came out of a case involving a Christian web designer in Colorado who refused to create websites to celebrate same-sex weddings out of religious objections.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that “The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands.”

He said Colorado sought to “deny that promise.”

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said what many members of the LGBTQ+ community have been saying for years.

“LGBT people do not seek any special treatment,” she wrote. “All they seek is to exist in public. To inhabit public spaces on the same terms and conditions as everyone else.”