Religious exemption in state’s anti-discrimination laws only would add injustice

By Daniel Smith

Fifty years ago, in the wake of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act. Congress was coming to terms with the awful truth that people of color were systematically refused a decent place to live. And they decided it was time to do something about it.

And the people of Colorado wondered what took them so long. Seven years earlier, in 1951, we passed the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, and soon after established the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) and Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC), protecting all citizens in our state from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Today, the CCRD ensures that a man isn’t denied a job because he is older, a woman isn’t denied a place to live because she is pregnant, or a family isn’t denied a seat in a restaurant because they are black or both parents are dads. That’s something we can be proud of.

Of course, you don’t have to look far to see that problems still persist. The “protected classes” in Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws still face prejudice: Women are still paid less than men for the same job. Segregation in our cities and schools persists. LGBTQ youth are far more likely to be homeless. People with a disability still fight to have a place at the table. None of these problems can be solved alone by the CCRD and CCRC, they are the ugly results of generational prejudice and systemic injustice.

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