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Hawaii Attorney General defends anti-discrimination laws

Hawaii Attorney General Russell A. Suzuki and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey took the lead in filing an amicus brief today defending the constitutionality of Minnesota’s anti-discrimination law.

The brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in the case of Telescope Media Group v. Lindsey. The owners of Telescope, a videography service, do not want to offer their wedding-related services to same-sex couples as required under the Minnesota public accommodations law. They claim that the law violates their freedom of speech and free exercise of religion.

“Discrimination by businesses is counter to Hawaii’s spirit of Aloha,” said Suzuki in a news release. “All citizens have a right to fair and equal treatment and this filing reinforces our fight to protect that fundamental right.”

Hawaii’s appeals court recently sided with a lesbian couple that claimed they were discriminated against when the owner of a Hawaii bed and breakfast denied them a room due to her religious beliefs.

The attorneys general filed the brief in support of Kevin Lindsey, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, defending the constitutionality of the state’s public accommodations law.

“Allowing commercial businesses to use the First Amendment as a shield for discriminatory conduct would undermine state civil rights laws and the vital benefits they provide to residents and visitors, leaving behind a society separate and unequal by law,” the brief said. “Many Americans would face exclusion from a host of everyday businesses or, at the very least, the ever-present threat that any business owner could refuse to serve them when they walk in the door — simply because of their sexual orientation, or their race, religion, or gender.”

Joining Suzuki and Healey in the filing the brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C.

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