Yelp, Lyft, Levi’s and Airbnb are among more than 1,200 businesses that have joined the Open to All coalition. The newly launched initiative provides companies a way to signal that they do not discriminate against employees or customers based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics.
“No one should have to worry that they will be denied service,” Calla Rongerude, the coalition’s campaign manager, told NBC News. “No one should be turned away from a business simply because of who they are.”
Companies can show they are “open to all” in one of two ways: with a physical window sticker or a newly created feature on yelp.com. Businesses that have a Yelp profile page can edit their attributes, so potential customers will see “Open to All: Yes” on their page.
In a post on Yelp’s official blog, Luther Lowe, the company’s senior vice president of public policy, said Yelp introduced the feature to allow “businesses to distinguish themselves as a safe and welcoming place to everyone.”
Tia Agnew, co-founder and CEO of New Day Craft, an Indianapolis-based producer of mead and cider, said she is excited to put up her Open to All window sticker, which she says matches her “personal and professional ethos.”
“I can put that emblem on my door and reinforce what we’ve already been doing for 14 years,” Agnew said. “All means all. There is no us or them.”
Rongerude said the coalition was “born out of” the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, which involved a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple due to his religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court, in a narrow ruling, decided in the baker’s favor this past June, but the case did not give businesses a blanket right to discriminate against gays. The implications of a broad loss in Masterpiece would have been “harrowing,” Rongerude said.
Vanita Gupta, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and a former Department of Justice official, said while the Masterpiece case “maintained the longstanding principle that business owners cannot discriminate,” there will likely be more legal challenges ahead. And with the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the high court’s swing vote, Gupta warned a change in the court’s composition could provide an opportunity for the “rubber stamping" of an anti-civil rights and anti-LGBTQ agenda.
“We are in perilous times,” Gupta said. “Religion must not translate into a license to discriminate.”
This week's launch of Open to All comes just days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a “religious liberty task force” at the Department of Justice, designed to “help the department fully implement our religious guidance.”
Civil rights groups and LGBTQ advocates sharply criticized the newly formed task force, slamming the move as a discriminatory affront to civil liberties masquerading as protections for people of faith.