Both sides see high stakes in gay rights Supreme Court case | Politics

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is being warned about the potentially dire consequences of a case next week involving a Christian graphic artist who opposes designing same-sex wedding websites.

The rule for the designer and the judges will expose not only same-sex couples, but also blacks, immigrants, Jews, Muslims and others to discrimination, liberal groups say.

If they rule against them, judges will force artists, from painters and photographers to writers and musicians, to do work that goes against their faith, conservative groups argue.

Both sides have described for the court what lawyers sometimes call “a parade of horrible things” that could result if the ruling doesn’t go their way.

The case marks the second time in five years that the Supreme Court has dealt with a business owner who says their religion prevents them from creating works for a gay wedding. This time around, most experts expect the court now dominated 6-3 by conservatives and particularly supporters of religious plaintiffs to side with Lorie Smith, the Denver-area designer in the case.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, in a report filed in court, was among those who called Smith’s argument “carte blanche to discriminate whenever a company’s product or service could be characterized as ‘expressive’.” a category of businesses that could range from “luggage, bedding, landscaping”. Those businesses, they said, could advertise: “We do not serve blacks, gays or Muslims.”

Smith’s attorneys at the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom say that’s not true. “I think it is disingenuous and untrue to say that a victory for Lorie in this case would take us back to those times where people … were denied access to essential goods and services based on who they were,” Kellie Fiedorek said. , ADF lawyer. and she added: “A victory for Lorie here would never allow such conduct, as some of the hypotheses they are raising.”

Smith’s case follows that of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who opposed creating a wedding cake for a gay couple. The couple sued, but the case ended with a limited decision. Phillips’ attorney, Kristen Wagoner, returned to high court Monday to defend Smith.

Smith wants to start offering wedding websites, but says his Christian faith prevents him from creating websites that celebrate same-sex marriages. That could get her in trouble with state law. Colorado, like most other states, has a public hosting law that says that if Smith offers wedding websites to the public, she must provide them to all customers. Companies that violate the law can be fined, among other things.

Smith, for her part, says the Colorado law violates the Constitution’s First Amendment by forcing her to express a message she disagrees with.

Among Smith’s other opponents are the Biden administration and 20 mostly Democratic-leaning states, including California, New York and Pennsylvania. The states told the court in one of 75 legal briefs filed by outside groups in the case that accepting Smith’s arguments would allow for widespread discrimination.

“A bakery whose owner was opposed to mixed-race relationships could refuse to bake wedding cakes for interracial couples,” the states said. A “real estate agency whose owner is opposed to racial integration might refuse to represent black couples looking to buy a home in a predominantly white neighborhood; or a portrait studio whose owner opposes interracial adoption might refuse to take pictures of white parents with their adopted black children.”

Those race-based examples could draw particular attention in a court with two black judges, Clarence Thomas and Ketanji Brown Jackson, who are married to white spouses and another judge, Amy Coney Barrett, who has two adopted children. that they are black But states also gave an example related to a person’s national origin. “A tattoo studio could tattoo the American flag on customers born in the United States and refuse to sell identical tattoos to immigrants,” they said.

Brianne Gorod of the Center for Constitutional Accountability, representing a group of law professors, hypothesized other examples of what could happen if Smith is successful in the high court.

“A web designer could refuse to create a web page celebrating the retirement of a female CEO, in violation of Colorado’s sex discrimination ban, if they believed that all women have a duty to stay home and raise their children. Similarly, a furniture manufacturer, who considers his furniture artistically expressive, might refuse to serve an interracial couple if he believed that interracial couples should not share a home together. Or an architect might refuse to design a house for an interfaith couple,” he told the court.

Smith’s supporters, however, including 20 mostly Republican-leaning states, say ruling against him also has negative consequences. A lawyer for the CatholicVote.org education fund told the court that if the lower court’s ruling stands and Smith loses, “a Jewish choreographer will have to put on a dramatic Easter performance, a Catholic singer will have to perform at a wedding of two divorcees, and a Muslim who operates an advertising agency will not be able to refuse to create a campaign for an alcoholic beverage company.”

The Jewish Religious Freedom Coalition put it differently, telling the court that a Jewish baker might have to comply with the request of a neo-Nazi who wants a cake that reads “Happy November 9th!” — a reference to Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when the Nazis burned synagogues and vandalized Jewish businesses throughout Germany and Austria.

Alan B. Morrison, a constitutional law expert at Georgetown University, stressed that Smith currently does not have wedding websites, making the case particularly speculative and, he says, problematic. Still, Morrison laughed off some of the what-if scenarios both sides came up with, suggesting they are “a bit of a stretch.”

The examples, he said, are “the kind of thing a law professor would think of.”

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