This battle over rights and discrimination is one of many that have appeared in the news recently, as businesses attempt to re-orient themselves in a world of expanded LGBT rights. But where does a company’s “right to refuse service” run afoul of anti-discrimination laws? That varies from one state to the next – and in a changing climate, the laws are prone to shift as well.
Right to Refuse Service
When you visit a business, like a restaurant or shop, you may see a sign stating they reserve the right to refuse business to anyone. The reality is a bit more complicated: In some cases, if a business is refusing to do business with a protected class of people, that refusal of service can be ruled as discrimination.
In order to avoid running afoul of discrimination, a business must establish rules that are not arbitrary and do not apply to just one group of people. For example, a dress code can be implemented and upheld, but it must be applied evenly for all guests: If a gay man is turned away for not wearing a tie but a straight man is allowed in without a tie, a case for discrimination can be made.
Anti-Discrimination Law in New Mexico
Anti-discrimination laws in the US are rooted in the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits “discrimination by privately owned places of public accommodation on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin.” Later, the Americans with Disabilities Act would prohibit private businesses from discriminating against disabled citizens. There is however no Federal ruling including the LGBT community in protection from this sort of public accommodation discrimination – laws are currently handled on a state-by-state basis.
As an LGBT individual in New Mexico, you have the legal right to be married and cannot be denied housing or employment based on your sexual orientation or gender identity.
New Mexico is also one of 20 states whose laws protect against “public accommodation” discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. You can read the full text of New Mexico’s anti-discrimination laws here.
What to Do if You Face Discrimination
It’s important to remember that discrimination is a violation of civil law, not criminal law. This means that while discriminatory behavior is illegal, it is tried in civil court pursuant to a lawsuit. If you are facing discrimination, your first step should be to contact an attorney and begin the legal process of suing for damages. An attorney can help you understand your rights and how they apply to your specific situation.