Christian web-designer cannot be forced to create websites for gay marriage
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that Colorado cannot pressure Lorie Smith of 303 Creative to fashion websites saluting same-sex marriage.
Lorie Smith, a Christian web-designer of 303 Creative filed a pre-enforcement challenge to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act in 2016, reasoning that the law would force her to offer services, which violated her sincerely held values that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled against her in July 2021, deciding that “Colorado has a compelling interest in protecting both the dignity interests of members of marginalized groups and their material interests in accessing the commercial marketplace.”
Tenth Circuit Chief Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich wrote an argument saying that the U.S. Constitution “protects Ms. Smith from the government telling her what to say or do. But the majority takes the remarkable — and novel — stance that the government may force Ms. Smith to produce messages that violate her conscience. Colorado has a compelling interest in forcing Ms. Smith to speak a government-approved message against her religious beliefs. No case has ever gone so far.”
Smith stated in an opinion column that the ruling against her showed that “the courts are even more open than many of us realized to letting officials punish religious freedom and silence free speech. Incredibly, the majority even decided that – as a person of unique, distinctive creative skills – I constitute a monopoly. And, as a monopoly, I have no legal right to retain my artistic freedom. The more unique my speech becomes, the more power the government has to regulate it.”
Smith appealed her case to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments last December.
Justice Neil Gorsuch expressed concern over the state’s effort to control Smith’s speech. “Under Colorado’s logic, the government may compel anyone who speaks for pay on a given topic to accept all commissions on that same topic—no matter the underlying message—if the topic somehow implicates a customer’s statutorily protected trait. Equally, the government could force a male website designer married to another man to design websites for an organization that advocates against same-sex marriage. As our precedents recognize, the First Amendment tolerates none of that.”
Gorsuch also concluded that “commitment to speech for only some messages and some persons is no commitment at all” and that “the opportunity to think for ourselves and to express those thoughts freely is among our most cherished liberties and part of what keeps our Republic strong.”