Steve Collins runs his event-planning business from the small mountain town of Alma, Colorado, helping his clients coordinate meetings at locations around the country. As his company’s sole proprietor, every contract matters. When the pandemic struck, it forced cancellations of events in 2020 and 2021, from clients such as Snowbird Resort and the Hilton Penn’s Landing Hotel in Philadelphia, that were slated to draw hundreds of people. All told, Steve lost nearly 30 percent of his revenue.
Like other small business owners, Steve sought help from a Colorado COVID-relief program designed to help struggling small businesses. Signed by the governor in December 2020, the program initially limited eligibility only to minority-owned businesses, but the law was revised after a barbershop and its owners brought a federal civil rights lawsuit (PLF represented them). The revised law required all applicants to show minimum revenue losses of 20 percent since March 2020, and a lack of access to PPP loans. But even though Steve met these and other stringent eligibility requirements set forth in the program, he would be disadvantaged in receiving a grant for one reason alone: his race.
By prioritizing minority-owned businesses for favorable treatment, this law unfairly treats people not as individuals, but as members of arbitrary racial groups. It’s also unconstitutional: The equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment protects individuals from discrimination due to arbitrary classifications like race.
Represented by PLF free of charge, Steve defended his right to equality before the law and fought for an even playing field for all small business owners.
On October 12, 2021, just five days after filing a federal lawsuit, a U.S. district court judge granted Steve’s temporary restraining order—a victory that prevented Colorado from implementing the race-based preferences. After Steve received a grant, the case was voluntarily dismissed.