Colorado designer before Supreme Court says she can’t tolerate LGBT weddings

Custom website and graphic designer Lorie Smith doesn’t want to be forced to create same-sex wedding websites because of her Christian faith, an issue the Supreme Court will debate next month in a free-speech case challenging Colorado anti-discrimination law. .

“I love working with people from all walks of life. And I have clients who identify as LGBT,” Smith told the washington examiner, saying their case is not about outright refusing to provide services to members of the LGBT community. “I just can’t create for every message.”

Smith claims Colorado’s anti-discrimination law violates her right to free speech about same-sex marriages, which she says is contrary to her sincerely held religious beliefs. While Smith hasn’t had the opportunity to expand her services to include wedding websites with her business, Ella 303 Creative, due to state law, she said she had aspirations to do so since she was young.


Supreme Court gay rights

Web designer Lorie Smith in her office on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in southwestern Littleton, Colorado.

David Zalubowski/AP

“I want to create for weddings, but I can’t because Colorado is censoring and forcing my speech and forcing me to create custom messages and expressions… celebrating messages that violate my deepest beliefs,” Smith said.

The small-business owner has been fighting to get deeper into wedding work for nearly six years, but he’s been beaten to the punch by the state’s Anti-Discrimination Law — the same law that was used against Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips. , in numerous lawsuits similar to the Smith case after he refused to create custom wedding cakes celebrating same-sex unions.

However, some groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, believe that Smith’s choice to enter the public marketplace should prevent him from refusing specific requests, even if the content challenges his sincerely Christian beliefs.

David Cole, the ACLU’s national legal director, attended a debate last month organized by the legal group representing Smith, Alliance Defending Freedom. Cole argued that Colorado law only requires businesses to serve everyone and does not infringe on free speech, arguing that Smith would be within his rights to put a statement on his websites saying he disagrees with LGBT marriage, but that you cannot refuse to serve customers for sexual reasons. orientation.

“You can’t say, ‘I’m serving the public, but I’m not going to serve gay people,'” Cole said. “You can’t say, ‘I’m going to provide a service to opposite-sex couples, but I’m not going to provide the same service to same-sex couples,’ because now you’re not open to the public.”

ADF CEO and President Kristen K. Wagoner also participated in the discussion and was questioned by Cole. The ACLU panelist argued that a ruling in favor of Smith could allow a baker who is “racist” to refuse to serve a black family a birthday cake, noting that the “First Amendment also protects racist beliefs.”

But Wagoner chided Cole’s argument in an interview with the washington examineralleging that Smith is asking the high court for content-based waivers and is not refusing service based on a customer’s sexual orientation.

“Lori is not selling hamburgers or cups of coffee. She’s creating. She’s a storyteller,” Wagoner said.

The attorney said the ACLU is “falsely asserting” that a ruling in Smith’s favor “would take us back to some truly despicable and ugly times in our nation’s history.” [when] people were denied access to essential goods and services based on who they were.”

Asked what would become of the Colorado law if the Supreme Court granted Smith’s request, Wagoner said “our hope” is that a victory for Smith upholds the First Amendment and allows the law to remain in effect.

“The problem is not the law itself. It’s how Colorado was applying the law to Lori and other artists by trying to force them to express themselves, and that’s simply not the way these public accommodations laws should be enforced,” Wagoner said. adding that a victory for Smith would also protect the rights of LGBT artists from being forced to create messages they might disagree with.

Smith sought to overturn a lower court ruling when his lawyer filed a lawsuit in the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in 2017. A panel voted 2-1 that Colorado law says he must “work with all people regardless of their…sexual orientation.” “


In 2018, the Supreme Court handed pastry chef Phillips a partial victory, saying the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with anti-religious bias against him. However, the court did not rule on the broader question of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refusing service to LGBT customers.

The high court will hear arguments in the case on Monday, December 5. A decision in the case will likely not be published for months and will likely arrive before June 2023.

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