Steptoe Authors Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

(November 2, 2017, Washington, DC) — Steptoe partnered with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and drafted an amicus brief featuring 37 businesses which oppose discrimination – the central issue in the pending US Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The brief was filed on October 30.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission involves a baker who refused to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The baker asserted that forcing him to bake the cake violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and free exercise of religion.  The Colorado Civil Rights Commission disagreed and found the that the baker was required to comply with Colorado’s non-discrimination law.  Last year, the Colorado Court of Appeals held that bakery owner Jack Phillips cannot cite religious beliefs or free speech to discriminate against same-sex couples. Oral arguments will be heard by the Supreme Court on December 5.

In the Steptoe-authored amicus brief, companies including Airbnb Inc., American Airlines, Apple, and Amazon.com Inc., advised the court that a decision favoring Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner would weaken anti-discrimination laws and hamper the companies’ ability to protect their employees from discrimination.  The companies argued that businesses can and should be open to all.

The full list of companies that signed the brief include:

Affirm, Inc.; Airbnb, Inc.; Amalgamated Bank; Amazon.com, Inc.; American Airlines; Apple; Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc.; Choice Hotels International, Inc., International; Cisco Systems, Inc.; Citigroup Inc.; Deutsche Bank; Glassdoor, Inc.; Intel Corporation; John Hancock; Levi Strauss & Co.; Linden Research, Inc.; Lyft Inc.; Marriott International, Inc.; MassMutual; Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; MongoDB, Inc.; National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce; NIO U.S.; PayPal Holdings, Inc.; Pfizer Inc; Postmates Inc; PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP; Prudential Financial, Inc.; Replacements, Ltd.; salesforce.com, inc.; SurveyMonkey; The Estée Lauder Companies Inc.; Uber Technologies, Inc.; WeddingWire, Inc.; Weebly, Inc.; Witeck Communications; and Yelp Inc.

Like the companies that signed on to the brief, Steptoe recognizes the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Last year, the firm relaunched its LGBTQ affinity group, Pride Alliance, as a forum for discussion of issues relevant to the LGBTQ community at Steptoe.

The amicus brief was authored by Steptoe partners Sarah Gordon and Jonathan Sallet, along with associate Laura Lane-Steele.

The full brief can be read here.

About Steptoe

Steptoe & Johnson LLP is an international law firm widely recognized for vigorous advocacy in complex litigation and arbitration, successful representation of clients before governmental agencies, and creative and practical advice in guiding business transactions. The firm has more than 500 lawyers and other professionals in offices in Beijing, Brussels, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Washington. For more information, visit www.steptoe.com.