Cynthia Coffman

Every June LGBTQ Americans and allies like me celebrate Pride Month. It allows us to reflect on the resilience, strength, and diversity of the LGBTQ community.

In recent years major rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court have punctuated our celebrations. From the Obergefell decision providing marriage equality in 2015, to the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Division decision in 2017 and the opinion Justice Neil Gorsuch drafted last year protecting LGBTQ members of the community from workplace discrimination.

In the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, as the Attorney General of Colorado, I proudly defended our state law that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in every area of life.

The groundwork for these momentous cases was laid 25 years ago in Romer v. Evans. Originating from a 1992 Colorado ballot initiative that would have barred local governments from passing ordinances to protect Coloradans from discrimination based on sexual orientation, the Supreme Court found the initiative violated the Equal Protection Clause. In effect, for the first time, the Supreme Court declared that lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of our community have a constitutional right to equal treatment.

Since Romer, 21 states and more than 350 municipalities have enacted LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections. Laws promoting LGBTQ equality are now supported by a supermajority of Americans, including 62% of Republicans nationwide.

But 25 years and a generation later, many LGBTQ Americans remain subject to unequal treatment and vulnerable to discrimination in several aspects of ordinary life. For example, many LGBTQ Americans must live without protection from discrimination in housing and places of public accommodation like restaurants, doctors’ offices, and stores. In states that have failed to adopt LGBTQ-inclusive anti-discrimination policies, anyone may be subject to unequal treatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The truth is that too many members of the LGBTQ community continue to face discrimination because of who they are and who they love.

The same-sex couple denied service at the Masterpiece Cakeshop grabbed headlines – but anti-LGBTQ discrimination continues in too many everyday settings. LGBTQ people have been denied service by landscapers, tax preparers, Uber drivers, and more. Without protections from such prejudicial actions, it can be challenging to navigate the basic, often mundane contours of daily life.

Thankfully, this problem is relatively simple to address — Congress must pass the Equality Act to provide federal nondiscrimination protections for every LGBTQ person, no matter where they live. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support. Now it is up to the Senate to take action.

As a conservative, I believe that freedom for one should mean freedom for all – including LGBTQ people. I want to live in a country where everyone is free to build a life for themselves and participate fully in society, without fear of harassment or discrimination. I want a streamlined, uniform law – because LGBTQ people in Alabama should not have fewer protections than those in Colorado. No one’s right to live free from discrimination should be checked at any border between states.

In Romer, Justice Anthony Kennedy dismissed arguments from defenders of the anti-LGBTQ law who claimed it simply blocked gay and lesbian people from receiving “special rights.” He wrote for the Court, “We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These are protections taken for granted by most people either because they already have them or do not need them; these are protections against exclusion from an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civic life in a free society.”

Now is the time for the Senate to come together and find a bipartisan path forward. We are at a critical juncture and members of Congress have the opportunity to reflect the same shared commitment to freedom and fairness that so many Americans, including conservative Americans like me, embrace.

And what better time to make it happen than Pride Month? That would be something for us all to celebrate.

Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, served as attorney general of Colorado from 2015 to 2019. She is a member of the Conservatives Against Discrimination Leadership Council.

Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, served as attorney general of Colorado from 2015 to 2019. She is a member of the Conservatives Against Discrimination Leadership Council.


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