Updated Dec 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court to hear arguments in same-sex discrimination case

Web designer Lorie Smith is shown in her office on Nov. 7 in the southwest part of Littleton. Photo: David Zalubowski/AP

Web designer Lorie Smith in her office on Nov. 7 in the southwest part of Littleton. Photo: David Zalubowski/AP

The case of an evangelical Christian designer from Colorado who refuses to build websites for same-sex couples lands in the U.S. Supreme Court Monday for oral arguments.

Why it matters: For the second time in five years, a First Amendment case from Colorado pits religious freedom against the right of LGBTQ people to access services without discrimination, and puts the court in the middle of the nation's culture wars.

What to know: Littleton's Lorie Smith, 38, objects to Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Act, saying it violates her free speech rights because it forces her to publish messages she opposes, in this case celebrating same-sex marriage on a wedding website. She preemptively sued the state in 2019.

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

What she's saying: "Colorado is compelling and censoring my speech and forcing me to design and create custom artwork that celebrates messages that go against my deeply held beliefs," Smith told Reuters in a recent interview. "My faith is at the core of who I am."

Between the lines: The Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021 issued a divided ruling against Smith, siding with Colorado in deciding the law doesn't violate the First Amendment.

  • Smith — backed by the conservative religious group Alliance Defending Freedom — appealed to the Supreme Court.

The other side: Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser says the nation's highest court has ruled in favor of state-level anti-discrimination laws and he will emphasize that precedent. The Biden administration and LGBTQ advocacy organizations are backing Colorado.

  • “When a business says we're open to the public, that means they have to serve all members of the public," Weiser said in August, when he filed briefs with the court.

Flashback: In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refused to make a cake for a gay couple. But the narrowly applied ruling avoided the broader question of whether businesses can discriminate and be protected by the First Amendment.

What's next: A ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis is expected by the end of June.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Dec. 3.

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