On a Democratic brief that includes Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, 36 senators and 175 representatives argue that the case will decide whether commercial enterprises that do business with the public "have a constitutional right to discriminate."
They argue the decision could have serious implications for laws with public accommodation provisions, such as the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Colorado law works in tandem with those federal laws.
"These laws ensure that membership in a historically marginalized community is not synonymous with exclusion and protect members of these communities from the indignity and humiliation that comes from being denied service on a discriminatory basis," the Democrats argue in the brief. "These laws make it possible for everyone to participate in public life."
The use of "indignity" is likely a key word to try to influence Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is expected to play a decisive role in the case and who spoke to dignity in some of the landmark opinions he has authored on cases dealing with civil rights.
Legal experts say the Supreme Court will be forced to draw a line between protecting the dignity of same-sex couples and protecting an artist and his free speech and religious rights.
The case pits two of Kennedy's hallmark issues against each other. He authored the court's recent gay rights rulings, including the legalization of same-sex marriage, but has also been a strong defender of free speech rights even within that 2015 opinion.
All eyes and ears will be on him Tuesday.
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