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Small Business Owners Oppose Denying Services to LGBT Customers

Publisher: 
Small Business Majority
Date: 
Thursday, 16 November, 2017

As the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, addressing the rights of business owners to deny services to LGBT individuals, it’s important to understand the perspective of small business owners nationally on this issue. New scientific opinion polling shows entrepreneurs strongly believe business owners should not be able to deny goods and services to LGBT customers based on their religious beliefs or because of their right to free speech or free artistic expression, and that nondiscrimination policies are good for their state’s business climate and their own business’s bottom line. The polling included oversamples in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio, which show that opposition to denying services to LGBT customers is strong across a variety of states.

The poll, which was conducted for Small Business Majority by Chesapeake Beach Consulting from October 4 to October 23, 2017, found nearly two-thirds (65%) of small business owners believe business owners should not be able to deny goods or service to someone who is LGBT based on the owner’s religious beliefs. Survey participants were also asked their opinions on denying goods or service based on a business owner’s belief that the service violates their right to free speech. Half of small business owners (50%) believe a business owner should not be allowed to deny services to a customer because the owner claims that service violates their right to free speech, compared to just 34% who feel a business owner should be allowed to deny services for this reason. Similarly, 55% of small business owners don’t believe that a business owner should be able to claim an exemption to nondiscrimination laws if they believe serving a customer goes against their right to free artistic expression.

It should come as no surprise then that small business owners show strong support for state and federal laws that would protect against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as a federal law that would protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, hotels and other businesses that are open to the public. Additionally, small business owners were asked about legislation considered in several states that would allow business owners to deny goods or services to LGBT customers based on their religious beliefs. Roughly 6 in 10 respondents (59%) feel that enacting such a law in their state would hurt the business climate. Additionally, a majority of small business owners (55%) agree that nondiscrimination laws improve the business bottom line by attracting the best and brightest employees, regardless of whether the employee is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. 

Key Findings

Entrepreneurs believe business owners should not be able to deny goods or service to LGBT customers based on their religious beliefs: 65% of small business owners do not think that a business owner should be able to deny goods or service to someone who is LGBT based on their religious beliefs. A 53% majority feel strongly about this.

Do you believe that a business owner should be able to deny goods or service to someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender based on the owner's religious beliefs?

Entrepreneurs believe businesses should not be able to discriminate based on claims that service violates their right to free speech or their right to free artistic expression: Half of entrepreneurs believe business owners should not be able to deny services to a customer because the owner believes that service violates their right to free speech. Additionally, 55% of small business owners believe small business owners should not be able to claim an exemption to nondiscrimination laws if they believe serving a customer goes against their right to free artistic expression. 

Small business owners think legislation that permits discrimination on religious grounds is bad for business: Small business owners were asked about legislation considered in several states that would allow business owners to deny goods or services based on their religious beliefs. Fifty-nine percent of small business owners feel that such legislation would hurt the business climate in their state. 

Several states have considered legislation that would allow business owners to deny goods or services based on their religious beliefs. If a law like that was proposed and enacted in your state, what effect do you think it would have on the business climate in your state?

Small business owners favor a federal law protecting against LGBT discrimination in places of public accommodations: Nearly 7 in 10 small business owners (68%) would favor a federal law protecting LGBT people from discrimination in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, hotels and other businesses open to the public.

Nondiscrimination laws improve businesses’ bottom lines: 55% of small business owners believe that laws protecting against discrimination improve the business bottom line by attracting the best and brightest employees, regardless of whether the employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

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