A Colorado website designer who fears the state will sue her for failing to create a gay marriage design – or other websites promoting messages her faith does not support – on Friday asked the Supreme Court to hear his case.
Lorie Smith, owner of 303creative, has turned to the High Court after her peremptory challenge to Colorado’s anti-discrimination law was dismissed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
“The government should not use the law as a weapon to force a web designer to deliver messages that violate his beliefs,” said lawyer Kristen Wagoner of Alliance Defending Freedom, who represents Ms Smith.
In the ruling, the appeals court panel acknowledged that Ms Smith feared Colorado law would “chill” her free speech rights, but two judges on the panel said granting her the right to refuse same-sex couples seeking a marriage website would “necessarily relegate LGBT consumers to an inferior market because [Ms. Smith’s] unique services are, by definition, unavailable elsewhere.
The ruling asserted that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act or CADA has a “compelling interest” in protecting the “dignity interests of marginalized groups,” including same-sex couples.
About 79% of couples have created a website for family and friends, according to a 2020 poll for WeddingWire.com.
At a recent press conference, Ms Smith said she did not discriminate in choosing her clients.
“I have served and continue to serve all people, including those who identify as LGBT, I simply oppose being forced to put my heart, imagination and talents into messages that violate my conscience,” she declared.
Colorado law supporters say a ruling in Ms Smith’s favor would reignite a form of discrimination that has largely been rooted out since the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage the law of the land.
“What the 10th Circuit decision means is that the art that is invested in creating something beautiful cannot be denied to some people because of their identity, otherwise we have recreated segregation in our company, “Jennifer C. Pizer, senior lawyer for the Los Angeles office of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said in an interview.
She asked, “Do we have to relearn this lesson? We’ve been there before. It’s painful; it’s horrible. People need to coexist with each other in the public market.
ADF, a nonprofit public interest law firm, said in July it would ask the High Court to hear the case. Although Colorado has yet to take action against Ms Smith, her lawyer is concerned that law enforcement is imminent.
“We’ve already seen that Lorie has received requests to design websites that violate her beliefs and stand with Colorado’s history of aggressive enforcement,” Ms. Wagoner said.
She added that the “state’s refusal to say it won’t prosecute Lorie in the same way, [this] increases the need for the court to step in and declare and assert its First Amendment rights.
Ms Smith is also protesting a restriction under the 10th Circuit ruling that says she can’t even explain her denominational position on her company’s website: “Colorado is censoring my speech. I can’t even post my beliefs about my opinions on my own website, ”she said.
Colorado has a habit of challenging those who say their work is constitutionally protected artistic expression.
In 2012, baker Jack Phillips of Lakewood, Colorado repeatedly went to court to challenge the state’s requirement to create cakes celebrating same-sex marriages or “gender disclosures” by transgender people. He said such works would violate his religious beliefs.
Mr Phillips said he serves customers from all walks of life with other products and even offered to sell the same-sex couple who approached him nine years ago a cake they could decorate.
The refusal earned him censorship from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. However, his 2018 Supreme Court victory was about how that body treated Mr. Phillips, not the baker’s claims of free speech and religious exercise.
Ms Wagoner argued Phillips’ appeal to the Supreme Court.
In the Creative Case, the ADF case again raises broader constitutional questions, asking the High Court to decide “whether the application of a public accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or remaining silent, contrary to the artist’s sincere religious beliefs, violates freedom of expression. or First Amendment Free Exercise Clauses ”, as stated in the call.
The appeal also asks the Court to determine “whether a public housing law that allows secular but non-religious exemptions is generally applicable” under 1990 Employment Division v. Smith that exemptions from a given statute should apply equally to secular and religious claims. .
Ms Wagoner said she was optimistic the Supreme Court would agree to hear Ms Smith’s case.
For Ms Smith, the case involves fundamental questions of liberty.
“Artists must be free to create eight and deliver messages consistent with their beliefs without the threat of unfair punishment,” she said. “Today is me, but tomorrow it could be you.” My case concerns the freedom of all Americans to live and work according to their beliefs. Free speech is for everyone, not just for those who agree with the government.