On June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, voted 7 to 2 that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the religious freedom of a baker, Jack Phillips, proprietor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, when the commission sanctioned him for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, in 2012.
Although the court’s ruling has been characterized as “narrow,” given that it is limited to this instance and sets no constitutional or federal precedents, it remains a symbolic setback for LGBTQ Americans and its implications have far-reaching consequences. Yet, in spite of the court’s decision, a majority of Americans want the government and private sector to do more to protect LGBTQ rights. 70% say a federal law is needed to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing and credit, according to a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll. Findings from the study were released at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Seattle, Washington.
The study, which was conducted in conjunction with Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, surveyed 2,006 U.S. adults, of whom 184 self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender. First launched in 2002, the national survey is a highly trusted barometer of attitudes surrounding LGBTQ issues in the workplace and the longest-running national opinion survey of its kind.
It captures the feelings of a strong majority of Americans who believe that businesses should not be allowed to deny services to people based on their sexual orientation (81%) or gender identity (80%). In a similar question, 75% of Americans believe that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be open to all and serve everyone on the same terms. The study also found that 68% of Americans say they are likely to shop at or support businesses that take a public stance in support of LGBTQ equality.
“What began as a ripple two decades ago is now a sea change in corporate America. The mission of Out & Equal has always been to educate, advocate and transform workplaces – and today we congratulate corporate leaders transforming our society with their outspoken dedication to equality,” said Erin Uritus, President of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. “We see unmistakable evidence here that Americans strongly favor businesses, with their wallets and their words, when those businesses also stand up for equality principles.”
The survey also reports that nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) Americans say they are very likely or somewhat likely to support or shop at a business that does not discriminate on sexual orientation or gender identity, along with race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, religion or disability. And a similar percentage of Americans (89%) say they are very likely or somewhat likely to work for a business that does not discriminate on all these characteristics.
“Despite America’s polarization during this charged election cycle, the Harris Poll reflects the truth that fundamental fairness matters deeply to most Americans” said John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll. “The pace of change towards acceptance of LGBTQ equality continues to set high marks, and underscores why so many business leaders are outspoken champions for the community.”
— The Harris Poll® (@HarrisPoll) October 4, 2018
Yet, despite the signs of progress, the findings on those who oppose this demand for inclusivity tell a different tale. Many forms of bias still abide in the marketplace and workplace. 20% of Americans say businesses should be able to deny services based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or disability. And 25% agree that businesses should be able to refuse to provide services to certain customers if that would go against their religious beliefs.
These discoveries underscore a need for more work to be done to ensure that all Americans are treated equally when they seek goods or services from businesses in their local communities. When a business opens its doors to the public, it should be open to all.