Supreme Court hears arguments over designer’s refusal to create for same-sex weddings


Supreme Court Gay Rights
Web designer Lorie Smith is shown in her office on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in the southwest part of Littleton, Colorado. David Zalubowski/AP

Supreme Court hears arguments over designer’s refusal to create for same-sex weddings

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Oral arguments are underway at the Supreme Court Monday over the case of a Christian designer from Colorado who says she cannot create websites for same-sex couples, citing her First Amendment free speech rights.

Unlike similar cases that have come before the high court in recent years, justices will not be analyzing the case based on web designer Lorie Smith‘s sincere religious beliefs, rather, if the First Amendment protects her from being compelled to create a message that contradicts her beliefs.

“I love working with people from all different walks of life. And I have clients who identify as LGBT,” Smith, 38, told the Washington Examiner, saying her case isn’t about outright refusing service to members of the LGBT community. “I just cannot create for every message.”


Smith, who is from Littleton, preemptively sued over Colorado’s anti-discrimination law in 2019, claiming it violates her right to free speech over same-sex marriages, which she contends are contrary to her religious beliefs.

The law prohibits businesses open to the public from denying goods or services based on gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, and other characteristics.

While Smith has not had the chance to expand her services to include wedding webpages with her business, 303 Creative, due to the state law, she said she has had aspirations to do so since she was young.

After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit issued a divided ruling against Smith in 2021, siding with Colorado in that the law didn’t violate the First Amendment, Smith appealed to the Supreme Court. She is backed by the conservative religious group Alliance Defending Freedom.

“The problem isn’t the law itself. It’s how Colorado was applying the law to Lori and to other artists by trying to compel their expression, and that’s simply not the way these public accommodation laws are meant to be enforced,” ADF’s CEO and President Kristen K. Waggoner told the Washington Examiner, adding that a victory for Smith would also protect the rights of any LGBT artists from being compelled to create messages they might disagree with.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser argued the Supreme Court has precedent siding in favor of state-level anti-discrimination laws and said he would emphasize that in arguments. The Biden administration and LGBT advocacy groups are backing Colorado.

Many court watchers and experts have likened Smith’s case to a follow-up to the Masterpiece Cakeshop dispute with owner Jack Phillips. However, when the high court returned a 7-2 ruling for his case, they only found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission acted in a hostile way toward his faith and failed to act neutrally toward his religion.

“Unfortunately, despite Jack’s victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, the government of Colorado continues to threaten the freedom of its artists,” Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, told the Washington Examiner.

“Americans should be free to express ideas even if the government disagrees with those ideas. The U.S. Constitution protects against government coercion,” Hunt added.


On Monday, advocates on both sides of the free speech case waited outside the Supreme Court ahead of the oral argument period for the 303 Creative v. Elenis case.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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