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Small businesses oppose anti-LGBT religious freedom laws

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Conducted in April and released on the 13th July, the Small Business Majority poll reveals that two-thirds of small businesses in the US believe that owners should not be able to deny their goods or services to LGBT couples. 

Ruled by the Supreme Court, same-sex marriage has now become legal in all 50 states of the USA.

However according to the Small Business Majority Poll:

‘The topic of religious liberty and how it relates to business practices has been front and center in the media. And once again, small businesses are in the middle of the debate’.

Earlier this year Indiana passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, allowing business to refuse goods or services to same-sex couples. 

After a national outcry the bill was amended, stating that it could ‘not be used to discriminate against anyone’. 

More recently, in the light of the recent ground breaking Obergefell v Hodges decision, former Florida governor and leading GOP candidate for 2016, Jeb Bush, stated that: 

“It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate”

However those small businesses who have chosen to exercise their right to religious freedom have received negative press, making headlines across the globe.  

The Guardian states that ‘a pizzeria in Indiana whose owners said they would not cater same-sex marriages received a number of negative Yelp reviews and had to temporarily close. A florist in Washington who refused to sell flowers to a same-sex couple was fined $1,000 and is facing a consumer protection lawsuit.’

However these kinds of businesses also received support with over $850,000 raised through a GO FundMe campaign and there are still some states in which small businesses, based on the owners religious beliefs can refuse to serve same-sex couples.

Released on Monday, the results of the Small Business Majority poll found that two thirds (66%) of the 500 small businesses surveyed strongly believe small business owners should not be allowed to ‘refuse any goods or services to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals.

Furthermore, 55% said that owners should not be allowed to deny wedding-related services. 

While numerous Republican politicians still defend the right of religious freedom laws, the majority of small-business owners do not believe that LGBT customers should be discriminated against based on such beliefs.

Additionally 55% of those who opposed identified themselves as Republican and 62% identified as Christian.

Currently, the federal law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodations (hotels, restaurants and other businesses that are open to the public) on the basis of race, religion, disability or national origin. 

However, the federal law does not currently protect employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

It’s evident from the results of the poll that the majority (47%) of small-businesses support the banning of discriminatory laws in employment, despite the fact that two-thirds of the companies surveyed currently do not have policies in place to protect LGBT employees. 

Jim Obergefell, told The Guardian that he will “continue to fight for equality for the LGBT community.”

“Even now with marriage equality – in some states, someone could get married and the next day put their wedding photo on their desk at work [and] they could be fired. They could lose their job.”

“There’s a lot of work left to do. I intend to be involved in that.”

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