Very soon, the Supreme Court will issue its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, deciding whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment ensures every American an equal right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation. But in a bizarre twist of legal fate, a group of corporate business interests, are trying to equate their desire for economic power with gay and lesbian people’s fight against discrimination.
In a new post on The Hill, Legal Director Ron Fein and summer legal intern Danny Gifford explain how developing corporate legal strategy is hijacking the hard-won precedent protecting the LGBTQ community.
Fein and Gifford write,
“Last year, citizens of St. Louis qualified enough signatures to put an initiative on the ballot limiting tax breaks for fossil fuel producers. Corporate lawyers sued to block the initiative on equal protection grounds. Amazingly, a St. Louis judge agreed. Citing Romer, the judge described the initiative—a reduction in corporate welfare to conserve public funds and promote a sustainable energy future—as “legislation that is designed to ‘fence out’ selected classes from the full rights of citizens.” He concluded that the initiative was motivated by “antipathy toward any fossil or nuclear fuel producer” and acted only “to punish enterprises which deal in disfavored fuels,” and struck it down under the Equal Protection Clause.
According to the corporate Romer analogy, “discriminating” against coal and gas companies is no different than discriminating based on sexual orientation, and St. Louis voters’ environmentally forward initiative was just anti-corporate bigotry.
If corporations can claim the same “animus” protections as disfavored minorities, the Equal Protection Clause can be skewed to undermine the interests of the very people it was intended to protect.”
Further corporate litigation surrounding the Romer case is likely to continue, with new challenges to the Equal Protection Clause. Hopefully, the trends of Romer will lead to marriage equality first.
To read the full article posted to The Hill (6/25/2015) , click here.