Supreme Court To Hear Case on Whether Website Designer Can Refuse Service to LGBTQ Customers
On Monday, the Supreme Court is set to hear a case about a Colorado website designer who refuses to make same-sex wedding sites and whether or not that violates the state’s law vs. her right to free speech.
Website designer Lorie Smith is arguing that Colorado’s public accommodations law—preventing businesses from refusing to serve people based on race, religion or sexual orientation—is in conflict with her religious beliefs; Smith said she does not believe in gay marriage.
In the “About” section of her website, 303Creative.com, she wrote about her limits on the services she offers: “Because of my faith, however, I am selective about the messages that I create or promote – while I will serve anyone, I am always careful to avoid communicating ideas or messages, or promoting events, products, services, or organizations, that are inconsistent with my religious beliefs.”
In her Supreme Court filing, Smith said she wants to create websites “that promote her understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, and she would like to post an online statement explaining she can only speak messages that are consistent with her religious convictions.”
Colorado has an anti-discrimination law that forbids businesses to withhold their services from customers based on sexual orientation.
Smith’s case straddles a number of blockbuster free speech cases. According to Newsweek, Smith started offering to create wedding websites in 2016. By that point, the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision had made same-sex marriage legal throughout the country. Similarly, a gay couple sued a Colorado baker after he refused to bake their wedding cake based on religious grounds. The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, made its way to the nation’s highest court, which didn’t rule on whether the baker could refuse to provide services to the same-sex couple.
“Colorado is censoring and compelling my speech and really forcing me to pour my creativity into creating messages that violate my convictions,” Smith said in an interview. “There are some messages I cannot create.”
Two courts have already ruled against Smith. Now the Supreme Court will hear the case. In 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the Supreme Court will determine whether applying Colorado’s law “to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”
After Roe v. Wade was overturned, the freedoms provided by Obergefell were also considered to be under threat, given Justice Clarence Thomas’s comments that he hoped it would be overturned. However, the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act last week, which would codify same-sex marriage protections.
The Supreme Court will hear the case on Monday, December 5.