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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 17, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 29
Even Christian Republican business owners say it's wrong to turn away LGBT customers
Section One
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Even Christian Republican business owners say it's wrong to turn away LGBT customers

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A large majority of small business owners - including those who identify as Christian and Republican - say businesses should not refuse service to LGBT customers, according to a new survey.

The poll, released July 13, was commissioned by Small Business Majority, an organization that advocates for small business owners, and carried out by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, who undertook an online survey of 500 small businesses.

Of the respondents, 47% identified themselves as Republican, 33% said they were Democrats, and 19% said they were independent.

Two-thirds (66%) of the small business owners said their counterparts should not be able to deny goods or services to LGBT customers, regardless of the owner's religious beliefs. Forty-five per cent believe this 'strongly.'

However, the remaining 33% believed that it was justified to deny services to LGBT people on the basis of religious beliefs.

Surprisingly, 55% of Republican small businesses and 62% of Christian small business owners oppose denying goods or services based on an owner's religious beliefs.

Eight in 10 entrepreneurs support a federal law to protect LGBT individuals against discrimination in public accommodations, such as restaurants, hotels and other businesses that are open to the public. Nearly half (47%) strongly favor a federal law banning this type of discrimination. Twenty per cent were opposed to any such federal law.

Sixty percent believed it to be wrong for a business owner to fire someone for being LGBT, while 40% believed it was acceptable.

'These data show that small business owners don't think it's right for LGBT people to be turned away from a business for religious reasons, including wedding-related services,' the survey authors said.

'Additionally, small business owners in this poll recognize the importance of protecting their employees, and they know workplace nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBT employees make smart business sense, help attract and retain talent, and that they're the right thing to do.'

The results were welcomed by Josh Driver, the founder of Open for Service - an organization that helps businesses to advertise the fact that they are open to all.

'Anytime we hear about LGBT rights in the U.S., Open For Service sees a surge in business registrations,' Driver said.

'Constantly, we get feedback from owners that identify as Christian and/or Republican who agree that turning people away is bad business. It's understandable to see the news stories and assume that one group or another would gladly shut the door on someone, but in reality it's just not the case.'

The survey was also welcomed by Deena Fidas, head of Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Workplace Equality Program.

'This study confirms that much of the business community, including small and mid-size businesses, believe that discriminating against the LGBT community is both wrong and makes for bad business,' she said.

'But there remains a sub-group of business owners who, in the absence of consistent federal anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT people, will continue to act on their discriminatory beliefs.

'The study highlights the need for comprehensive legislation to ensure LGBT equality in employment, public services, housing, and more.'

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