The nation’s highest court on Tuesday agreed to review a Denver-based federal appeals court ruling that Colorado’s anti-discrimination law could compel a Christian graphic designer to create wedding websites for same-sex couples. sex despite his religious beliefs.
Conservative groups lined up behind Lorie Smith in the U.S. Supreme Court, asking justices to consider whether Colorado’s anti-discrimination law imposed an impermissible burden on Smith’s First Amendment rights.
“Colorado has weaponized its law to silence speech it disagrees with, to compel speech it endorses, and to punish anyone who dares to disagree,” Kristen Waggoner, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Smith, said in a statement. “Colorado’s law – and others like it – is a clear and present danger to the constitutionally protected freedoms of every American and the very existence of a diverse and free nation.”
ADF defenders of Judeo-Christian religious freedom by business litigation affecting the rights of the LGBTQ population. For the past decade, he has represented another Colorado business owner before the Supreme Court. Jack Phillips, the owner of a cake shop in Lakewood, won his own appeal on narrow grounds after refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.
Smith’s case will be answer the larger question left hanging in the Phillips case: whether the government can compel an “artist” to create content contrary to his religious beliefs under the US Constitution.
A ruling by the conservative-majority court could have implications for state anti-discrimination laws generally.
“The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that anti-discrimination laws, such as those in Colorado, apply to all businesses selling goods and services,” Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement. “Businesses cannot turn away LGBT customers simply because of who they are. We will vigorously uphold Colorado laws, which protect all Coloradans by preventing discrimination and respecting free speech.”
Smith, at the time of his call, did not create wedding websites but sought to do so. She wanted to post a notice informing potential clients that she would not, because of her Christian faith, create websites for any marriage not between a man and a woman. His stance appeared to violate the state’s anti-discrimination law, which prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods and services in a public accommodation.
In June, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled against Smith by 2-1. The majority concluded that if Colorado’s anti-discrimination law required Smith to create websites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples, the state was justified in prohibiting discrimination in places of public accommodation.
“As Colorado makes clear, CADA seeks to address a long and abhorrent history of discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Senior Judge Mary Beck Briscoe wrote.
Chief Justice Timothy M. Tymkovich dissented, calling the majority position “novel” for allowing the government to force Smith to produce messages in violation of his conscience.
“No case has ever gone this far,” he wrote.
The Colorado attorney general’s office, which is defending Smith’s lawsuit, said the case was not suitable for review because Smith had not yet broken the law and been subject to law enforcement action. part of the state. Companies remain free to express their own opinions, the bureau argued, but not to publicize their plans to discriminate in violation of the law.
“(P) Prohibiting businesses from displaying what would amount to ‘Straight Couples Only’ messages is permitted because it restricts speech that offers illegal activity and is therefore not protected by the First Amendment,” the state wrote to the Supreme Court.
Julian GG Wolfson, a lawyer at HKM Employment Attorneys, said business owners are already obligated to speak up on certain issues. He cited mandatory advertisements about workers’ rights in the workplace, which some business owners may not agree to.
“A lot of things start to fall apart if this is deemed unconstitutional, whether it’s for religious issues or freedom of speech,” he said.