The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Monday in a case of a Colorado graphic designer challenging her state’s anti-discrimination law because she wants to provide services to create wedding websites but does not want to have to do them for gay weddings because of her religious beliefs.
The law, known as the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), prohibits businesses providing sales or services to the publics from denying services to someone based on their identity. Lorie Smith, owner of 303 Creative LLC, says she will work with anyone including the LGBTQ community, but not for the specific purpose of gay weddings. Going into the case, Smith had not started offering wedding-related services to anyone, but she wants to and is challenging Colorado’s law out of concern that it will be used to dictate what she can or cannot create. She also says she wants to publish a statement on her business’s website explaining that she will only create messages that are consistent with her religious beliefs.
“I think it’s important for people to understand that I love and welcome the opportunity to work with all people. My case has never been about choosing which client to work with, but about choosing the message that I’m being asked to promote,” Smith told Fox News Digital in a March interview.
While the basis for Smith’s legal challenge stems from her religious beliefs, the Supreme Court will not be looking at it through the lens of religious freedom. Instead, the justices will be examining the free speech issues involved in a state law that Smith says would compel speech by forcing her to create sites that she does not want to, and would prohibit posting the statement about her religious views.
In its brief with the high court, the state says its law is about equal access and does not seek to suppress any message Smith’s business might wish to express.
“The Company is free to decide what design services to offer and whether to communicate its vision of marriage through biblical quotes on its wedding websites,” Colorado officials said. “The Act requires only that the Company sell whatever product or service it offers to all regardless of its customers’ protected characteristics.”
The Biden administration, in a brief supporting CADA, says Supreme Court precedent protects LGBTQ customers, as a 2020 ruling said the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination based on sex.
Lower courts have upheld CADA, saying the state has compelling reasons to protect the “dignity interests” of marginalized groups.
Smith has pointed out that Colorado and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against her, recognize that she is willing to work with anyone, regardless of sexual orientation.
Supporters of CADA claim that the law is necessary to keep businesses from discriminating. ACLU National Legal Director David Cole warned of what could happen if Smith wins her case.
“If 303 Creative prevails here, then any business that can be characterized as expressive, and that’s a lot of businesses, can start putting up signs saying no Jews served, no Christians served, no Blacks served,” Cole said. “We had that practice during Jim Crow, I don’t think we want that practice back again.”
This is the second time CADA has been at the center of a Supreme Court case. In 2018, bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop won a case where owner Jack Phillips refused to design and create cakes specifically for gay weddings. That case did not rule on whether the law itself violated the First Amendment for free speech or religious reasons, as they held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had anti-religious bias in enforcing the law against Phillips.
Smith is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, the same organization that represented Phillips. The bakery’s case was what led her to be concerned that Colorado’s law could be used against her if she wanted to provide wedding-related services.
“Here’s another fellow creative and I saw the way that the state was treating Jack and I thought to myself, could I find myself in the same position?” Smith said.
Fox News’ Shannon Bream and Bill Mears, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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