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Lorie Smith Gay Rights Versus Religion U.S. Supreme Court Case Update

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments this fall in a lawsuit brought by Lorie Smith of 303 Creative LLC, who refused to provide same-sex marriage web services because she opposes couples homosexuals for religious reasons. The court announced that it would hear the case on February 22.

Working on Smith’s behalf is the Alliance Defending Freedom, the same conservative law firm that backed Jack Phillips, owner of Lakewood’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, in a case stemming from his refusal to bake a wedding cake for gay couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins, also because of his faith. The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips in 2018, albeit on fairly narrow grounds.

Since then, however, the court has become decidedly more conservative with the addition of Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, both appointees by former President Donald Trump. As a result, a judgment in Smith’s favor could expand Masterpiece Cakeshop’s opinion in a way that alarms One Colorado, which describes itself as “the state’s premier advocacy organization dedicated to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans.”

“A Supreme Court ruling allowing discrimination would have implications for our country that go far beyond LGBTQ people. It could threaten our longstanding anti-discrimination protections. The people of Colorado have shown time and time again that our state is open to anyone, and these efforts do not represent our values, Garrett Royer, deputy director of One Colorado, said in a statement.

In a June 2018 interview with Westword After the Supreme Court announced its Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, attorney Paula Griesen, who represented Craig and Mullins in concert with the ACLU of Colorado, acknowledged that the result was “certainly disappointing from the standpoint that Charlie and David n “have not prevailed. But it is a narrow, limited opinion only on the facts of the case. It was largely based on statements by some members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission” – who lent his support to Craig and Mullins in 2014 – “not about inappropriate conduct by Charlie and David.”

Smith’s complaint, filed on September 20, 2016, has a broader scope. The ADF characterizes it as a “pre-enforcement challenge” against Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), which “prohibits creative professionals from expressing opinions about marriage that might indicate a person is” undesirable, objectionable, unacceptable or undesirable “because of their sexual orientation or which suggest that the designer will not create particular expressive works because of those beliefs.” The ADF says CADA is blocking Smith from explaining online that she won’t “create websites and graphics celebrating same-sex marriages” because they “violate her conscience. Lorie’s faith teaches her that marriage is between a man and a woman”.

Some of the key points of ADF’s arguments: “Lorie works with everyone…She doesn’t promote every message”; “Free speech is for everyone, not just those who agree with the government”; “Creative professionals should be free to create art consistent with their beliefs without the threat of government sanctions”; “Even though the Supreme Court condemned Colorado for acting with ‘clear and unconscionable hostility’ in the Jack Phillips case, the state continues to target Lorie for disagreeing with her religious beliefs. “; “Web designers and internet companies speak freely all the time – Lorie should have the same freedom”; and “Americans have the right to challenge unjust laws. They don’t have to wait to be punished before seeking justice.”

That’s not how the US District Court saw it, however. Defendants in the case, including Colorado Civil Rights Commission head Aubrey Elenis and its other members, as well as Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, were granted summary judgment in September 2019, largely because the case was hypothetical: Smith sued before releasing a statement. , and no state agency had punished her. The unstated subtext: The ADF wanted to fight, and the court was not interested in participating.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals had different reasons to convict Smith on July 26, 2021, by a 2-to-1 vote, with Senior Justices Mary Beck Briscoe and Michael R. Murphy forming the majority and Chief Justice Timothy M. Tymkovich, who heard a 2018 ethics complaint case against Kavanaugh, offering a dissent.

Briscoe and Murphy’s conclusion reads: “We agree with the dissent that ‘protecting minority viewpoints is not only essential to protecting speech and autonomy, but also a good itself.” Yet we must also consider the serious harms caused when public accommodation discriminates on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Combating such discrimination is, like individual autonomy, “essential” to our democratic ideals. And we agree with the Dissent that a diversity of faiths and religious practices, including that of the appellants, “enriches” our society. Yet a faith that enriches the society of in a way could also harm the society of others, especially where that faith would exclude others from unique goods or services.In short, the rights to free speech and freedom of ber exercise of the callers are, of course, compelling. But so is Colorado’s interest in protecting its citizens from the harms of discrimination. And Colorado cannot pursue that interest while excluding the CADA callers. For these reasons, we affirm the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Colorado.”

Now the U.S. Supreme Court will have an opportunity to intervene, and Smith and Alliance Defending Freedom General Counsel Kristen Wagoner responded to the announcement during a virtual media event on February 22.

“I am extremely grateful that the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing my case,” Smith said, “and I hope it will rule in favor of free speech for all artists and ultimately , for everyone. … Artists do not give up their freedom of speech when they choose to make a living by creating personalized expression. Those who create speech for a living are entitled to the full protection of the Constitution. Just because we communicate one point of view does not mean that we should be obliged to promote an opposing point of view.”

For his part, Wagoner argued that “the government should not weaponize the law to force a web designer to deliver messages that violate his beliefs. This case is about the freedom of all artists and all Americans. This freedom transcends particular opinions and is fundamental to a free society.”

She added: “Like countless other artists, Lorie Smith serves everyone. The 10th Circuit agreed. Lorie’s web designs are also protected from speech under the First Amendment. The 10th Circuit was also d agree with that. And Lorie chooses to create websites based on their content, not the people requesting those websites. The 10th Circuit also agreed here. But despite all of that, the majority determined that the law of the Colorado trumps artists’ First Amendment rights: that they can actually be forced to create art that communicates ideas contrary to their beliefs, and then be forced to post those ideas on the web so that everyone can Colorado says Lorie can be made to do all of these things while being forced to put her company name — and stamp of approval — on speech that promotes ideas that violate her conscience.”

Here is the video of this press conference:

303 Creative: ADF Media Relations ADF Press Conference on Vimeo.

Click to read 303 Creative LLC and Lorie Smith v. Aubrey Elenis, et al. and the 2021 Opinions and Dissents of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.