Supreme Court Will Hear New Case on Business Owners’ Rights to Refuse Service to LGBTQ People

(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new clash involving religion and the rights of LGBTQ people in the case of a Colorado web designer who says her religious beliefs prevent her from offering wedding website designs to gay couples.

Lorie Smith’s case was confirmed by the high court on Tuesday. Denver-based designer Lorie Smith offers website and graphic design services. She also wants to offer wedding website design. However, she claims that her Christian faith would force her to refuse any request by a couple of the same gender to design their wedding website. Her website should also contain a statement about her faith. These things could be considered discriminatory and would violate a Colorado anti-discrimination statute.
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Smith argued that the law infringes on her freedom of speech and religion rights.

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In taking this case, the Supreme Court stated that it would only be focusing on the issue of free speech. The Supreme Court stated that it will decide whether or not a law requiring artists to talk or remain silent infringes on the First Amendment’s free speech clause. This case should be decided in the autumn.

Smith’s attorney, Kristen Waggoner, said in a statement after the court agreed to hear the case that “Colorado has weaponized its law to silence speech it disagrees with, to compel speech it approves of, and to punish anyone who dares to dissent.”

Phil Weiser, Colorado Attorney General, stated that the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that all businesses can use anti-discrimination legislation like the one in Colorado.

“Companies cannot turn away LGBT customers just because of who they are,” Weiser said in an emailed statement. “We will vigorously defend Colorado’s laws, which protect all Coloradans by preventing discrimination and upholding free speech.”

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in a 2-1 decision. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Smith’s attempt to overturn a lower court ruling throwing out her legal challenge. The panel said Colorado had a compelling interest in protecting the “dignity interests” of members of marginalized groups through its law, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

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In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law which prohibited discrimination based upon sexual orientation was in effect in Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker.

After Phillips refused to make a wedding cake, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was accused of anti-religious bias. It did not decide on whether businesses can use religious objections in refusing to serve LGBTQ persons.

Phillips was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, Arizona-based. Smith is also represented.


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