On Monday, Jan. 30, the ACLU of Kentucky filed a brief asking a federal appeals court to uphold anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people enshrined in Louisville’s Fairness Ordinance. The brief is asking the court to reverse a ruling from a lower court that the ACLU says would create a slippery slope by allowing businesses to deny services to LGBTQ people.
Louisville’s anti-discrimination Fairness Ordinance prevents businesses open to the public from refusing to serve customers based on innate characteristics, including a customer’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
However, in 2019, a wedding photographer filed a lawsuit against Louisville Metro Government over the ordinance, claiming that her right to deny service to LGBTQ people was protected by the First Amendment and Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In the suit, Chelsey Nelson claimed that, as written, the Fairness Ordinance required her to violate her religious and personal beliefs that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Beaton ruled in favor of Nelson, saying that the Fairness Ordinance violates Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Louisville Metro Government later appealed Beaton’s decision to the U.S. Sixth Court of Appeals.
In a statement, ACLU of Kentucky Legal Director Corey Shapiro said the city’s authority to prevent discrimination was clear.
“Louisville Metro Government unquestionably has the authority to prohibit businesses within its borders from discriminating against LGBTQ people in the sales of goods and services to the general public,” he said. “If a business needs to know who the service is for to decide whether it will provide those services, that is identity-based discrimination.”
Louisville passed Kentucky’s first Fairness Ordinance in 1997. Since then, more than 20 other Kentucky cities have enacted similar legislation.