Supreme Court must assess whether web page designer can deny services to same-sex couples

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a case about whether a wedding website designer can refuse to provide services to same-sex couples under Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.

Lori Smith, a Christian graphic designer and webpage designer, is looking to expand her services to create webpages for weddings, but says her religious beliefs prevent her from creating websites for same-sex couples. His view conflicts with Colorado civil rights laws requiring businesses to be accessible to all customers, regardless of sexual orientation.

The designer is “willing to work with all people, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation and gender”, his attorneys said in court filings. “But she cannot create websites that promote messages contrary to her faith, such as messages that condone violence or promote sexual immorality, abortion or same-sex marriage.”


The Smith case is largely a continuation of the unresolved legal issues raised in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which concerned whether a business owner could refuse to make a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple. .

Jack Phillips, a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for two men, won the case in a Ruling 7-2 in 2018 after judges found he had been unfairly treated by the state civil rights commission. But the justices did not rule on his constitutional free speech claim, and that was before former President Donald Trump named two conservatives, Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, to the highest yard.

Smith sued for a ruling that would uphold her ability to be exempt from serving customers whose requests conflict with strongly held religious beliefs, but she lost her case in July last year before a court. federal judge and in a 2-1 decision by the 10th Circuit Court in Denver.

State prosecutors argue that the Colorado law is not a restriction on free speech, saying it is a prohibition on discrimination by businesses engaged in commerce.

“Requiring the company to produce the same services for same-sex couples that it produces for opposite-sex couples does not require it to speak in favor of same-sex marriage,” the Colorado attorneys said.

In agreeing to hear the case on Tuesday, the High Court justices limited the case to consider only the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion and whether these warrant a limited exemption to Colorado civil rights law. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the fall.


The website designer is represented by the same lawyers who helped Phillips in his long legal battle, the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Smith’s attorneys are asking for a broader ruling that would give people with religious motivations a partial exemption from state laws requiring them to participate, even by proxy, in a same-sex union.

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