NEW YORK – A majority of small business owners believe companies shouldn't be allowed to withhold goods or services from lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people based on an owner's religious beliefs, according to a survey released Monday.
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Two-thirds of the owners questioned in the survey by the advocacy group Small Business Majority said businesses shouldn't be able to refuse to provide goods or services to LGBT customers. Fifty-five percent said businesses shouldn't be allowed to deny wedding-related services to same-sex couples because of an owner's beliefs.
The survey of 500 small business owners was conducted in late April, two months before the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in every state in the nation. It was conducted several weeks after the Indiana Legislature amended the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which opponents said could enable companies to refuse to do business with LGBT people because company owners' beliefs oppose those customers' lifestyles.
A majority of the survey participants said they support laws that give additional protection for LGBT people; 80 percent support a federal law to prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals in restaurants, hotels and other businesses that are open to the public. Eighty-one percent said they're in favor of a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination that's based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of a worker or job applicant. Federal law currently doesn't give the same protection against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as it does against discrimination based on gender, age, race, religion or disability.
Nearly half, or 47 percent of the survey participants identified themselves as Republican, 33 percent said they were Democrats and 19 percent said they were independent.
But the majority of companies — two-thirds — said they had no policy in their companies protecting LGBT employees from discrimination. Of those that do have a policy, 64 said they created it because all customers and employees should be treated fairly and equally. Sixty percent said creating such a policy is the right thing to do, and about 40 percent said having a policy makes it easier to attract and retain good workers and draw more customers.