New Jersey Upholds Strong Anti-Discrimination Laws Following U.S. Supreme Court's 303 Creative Ruling


Despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, NJ’s Division on Civil Rights reiterates commitment to enforcement of the state's robust anti-discrimination laws, affirming protection for the LGBTQ+ community.

In light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, New Jersey’s Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced guidance that emphasizes the continued enforcement of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). 

This ruling confirms that the majority of businesses and vendors will remain subject to the LAD, with only a narrow set of services potentially exempt.

The Ruling of 303 Creative

In 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the Supreme Court considered whether the First Amendment prohibited a Colorado anti-discrimination statute's application to a web designer who refused to create customized websites for same-sex weddings. 

The Court ruled that the web designer's customized and original work, considered "expressive," allowed her to have a First Amendment right not to create designs for same-sex weddings.

New Jersey's Stance

The enforcement guidance issued explains that the ruling in 303 Creative will not alter the way the LAD applies to most businesses and vendors in New Jersey. The Supreme Court's ruling only exempts a narrow set of "original" and "customized" services that are considered expressive under the First Amendment.

Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin emphasized New Jersey's commitment, stating, “Our commitment to enforcing those laws and ensuring our residents' rights to fair treatment remains unwavering.” 

Similarly, Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights, reaffirmed the state’s dedication to enforcing anti-discrimination statutes.

Detailed Guidelines

The guidelines clarify that the exemption from the LAD requires that creative services must be original and tailored for each customer, expressive, and the refusal to provide the service must be based on the conveyed message, not the customer's identity or protected characteristic.

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights clarified that many services, such as catering for events, customized haircuts, or event planning, are not considered expressive, and therefore cannot refuse service based on protected characteristics.

In Summary...

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, New Jersey continues to uphold its strong anti-discrimination laws. This enforcement guidance reassures residents that the rights of all New Jerseyans, including the LGBTQ+ community, remain safeguarded.

New Jersey's laws, as Attorney General Platkin puts it, “remain among the strongest in the nation for protecting people against bias and discrimination.” The state continues to lead in promoting a fair and inclusive society for all its residents. 

The full guidance is available on the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights website.

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