COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) – A Colorado Springs barbershop owner has filed a federal lawsuit against state officials claiming COVID-19 relief for minority-owned small business that was recently approved by the Colorado legislature is unconstitutional.
The owner of Locals Barbershop, Etienne Hardre, claims that the $4 million in relief aid for minority business owners is discriminatory because access to the funds is solely based on race.
Governor Jared Polis, who is named in the lawsuit, signed the relief aid bill into law on Monday. Hardre is also suing Colorado’s Minority Business Office and its director.
Hardre claims the state fails to show how it would prevent discrimination or racism when choosing how the funds are distributed.
The lawsuit, which seeks to remove the minority requirement, says the barbershop owner has lost 33% of revenue and wants to apply for all available state aid. However, the barber says because he is white the state won’t provide him funds for minority-owned businesses.
Attorney Michael Kuhn, who represents Hardre, was unavailable for an interview on Wednesday but released this statement to KRDO:
“Mr. Hardre’s lawsuit asks the United States District Court to examine whether a race-based classification is consistent with the United States Constitution. We do not believe it is.
We recognize that reasonable people may disagree about whether Section 8 of Senate Bill 1 is good public policy. While Mr. Hardre does not question the character or motivation of those who disagree with his position in this case, his lawsuit is well-grounded in precedent. The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that race-based classifications are only permissible when they are a “last resort.” Chief Justice Roberts noted in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 that “(t)he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
As attorneys, the first words in our oath of admission require us to pledge to “support the Constitution of the United States.” Consistent with the rules of ethics for Colorado lawyers, we do not deny representation to those “whose cause is controversial or the subject of popular disapproval.”
We look forward to engaging with the state government in an effort to ensure Senate Bill 1 does not violate the Constitution.”
Polis’ office declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday morning.
KRDO has reached out to the state’s Minority Business Office for comment but was referred to the Attorney General’s Office.
The Colorado Attorney General’s Office said they had no comment related to the pending lawsuit.