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Gay Marriage a Boon for Small Business

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Can legalizing gay marriage increase business? With gay marriage statutes passing in certain states across the U.S., it certainly seems that same-sex couples and businesses can be a good mix.

After all, gay marriage laws likely means an increase in the number of marriages.

An increase in marriages subsequently means an increase in people clamoring to buy wedding-related goods and services. It's estimated that the U.S. spends more than $80 billion on weddings a year, and it's no small wonder that some businesses might want to try to cash in on this increase

But, what about those that do not want to partake? Could refusing same-sex couples services be breaking the law?

It could very well be.

Some businesses tend to adhere to the old adage that they have the right to refuse service to anybody.

But, the Civil Rights Act, which is federal law, prohibits places of public accommodations that offer goods or services from refusing to serve customers on the basis of race, color, religion, or natural origin.

The federal law does not specifically prohibit businesses from refusing to serve same-sex couples on the basis of their sexual orientation. However, many states have enacted their own civil rights laws that may specifically prohibit business owners from discriminating against gay couples.

For example, the California Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits businesses from refusing service based on arbitrary decisions, such as refusal of services based on their sexual orientation. Other states also have similar provisions in place that would make it against the law for businesses to refuse service.

So even if gay marriage may increase businesses' bottom lines, the boon may be limited since it's foreseeable that some business owners may want to deny service to same-sex couples. These businesses, however, should be aware that they may very well be running afoul of discrimination laws.

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