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Colorado Small Businesses Oppose Denying Services to LGBT Customers Based on Religious Beliefs

Publisher: 
Small Business Majority
Date: 
Thursday, 15 December, 2016

Around the country, a number of states including Colorado have recently passed or considered legislation that would allow business owners to deny services to LGBT people based on the owner’s religious beliefs. These laws are also sometimes known as religious freedom measures and are often modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Supporters of these laws often claim small businesses favor them, but a new scientific poll of Colorado small business owners challenges this assumption. The poll finds 65% of Colorado small business owners believe business owners should not be allowed to deny services to LGBT individuals based on the owner’s religious beliefs.

Figure 1: Small businesses believe business owners should not be able to deny goods and services to LGBT individuals based on the owner’s religious beliefs.

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

This sentiment extends to wedding-related services, with 61% of respondents saying they believe business owners should not be able to deny services related to a wedding for same-sex couples based on the owner’s beliefs. 

Figure 2: Small business owners believe business owners should not be able to deny services related to a wedding for same-sex couples based on the owner’s beliefs.

Do you believe that a business owner should be able to deny services related to a wedding for same-sex couples based on the owner’s religious beliefs?

The Colorado House of Representatives considered a bill last March that would have allowed business owners to deny goods and services to someone who is LGBT based on the business owner’s religious beliefs. While the bill failed, supporters of this legislation sought to place a measure on the November ballot that would make it legal for businesses to deny services to LGBT individuals based on religious beliefs. The measure did not reach the ballot, and the survey shows it would not have received support from most small employers: More than 6 in 10 (61%) small business owners said they would oppose a ballot initiative allowing this type of discrimination, with more than half (51%) strongly opposing it. 

Additionally, small business owners expressed trepidation about the impact that this initiative would have on Colorado’s business climate. In fact, nearly 6 in 10 respondents (59%) say that an initiative like this would hurt the business climate in Colorado, while only 35% say it would not.

It’s important to note that this research primarily polled mom-and-pop businesses, with 71% of respondents owning businesses with 10 or fewer full-time employees and 26% in the restaurant, retail or retail services industries. Additionally, respondents represented an array of political ideologies, with 44% identifying as Republican or Republican-leaning, 31% identifying as Democrat or Democrat-leaning, 18% as pure independent and 8% as other.

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State(s): 
CO