The Fair Practice Ordinance of the Philadelphia Code (FPO) prohibits businesses from discriminating (against patrons) on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, marital status, familial status, genetic information, or domestic or sexual violence. Recently, there has been public outcry over alleged discrimination toward LGBT people in some Philadelphia bars and restaurants. In light of this, Mayor Jim Kenney recently signed a bill amending the FPO to more stringently punish businesses who engage in “severe or repeated violations” without efforts to remediate such practices by authorizing the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) to order a business to cease operations “for a specified period of time.” The PCHR will eventually enact further regulations to clarify the meaning of “severe and repeated” and “effective efforts” or the length of time are.
Philadelphia’s amended FPO law comes at a critical time in the unfolding of discriminatory business-patron regulations nationwide. This June, the Supreme Court decided to grant cert to a related case involving a baker in Colorado refusing to bake wedding cakes for same sex couples because of his religious beliefs. The Court will hear Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the coming term; its outcome will likely have determinative implications for the enforceability, or lack thereof, of laws like the FPO.