justice
Arizona Files Amicus Brief Defending Christian Business Owner’s Speech on Marriage

June 4, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

On Thursday, Attorney General Mark Brnovich co-led a 20-state coalition in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case deciding the speech rights of business owners. The coalition filed their amicus brief the day after Pride Month began. 

At the heart of the case — 303 Creative v. Elenis — is Colorado businesswoman Lorie Smith, a graphic artist and website designer who refused to design wedding websites for same-sex couples per her religious beliefs. Colorado law C.R.S. 24-34-601 prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, even due to religion. The state considers any business that sells to the public or offers services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to the public as a “place of public accommodation” and therefore beholden to their anti-discrimination law.

The amicus brief pointed out that Smith provided other services to LGBTQ+ customers, but that her Christian religion prevented her from providing wedding-related services to those customers. It also pointed out that Smith’s hesitation concerned the message she would convey in being forced to do so; in other words, her speech and not the status of a customer. 

The Christian Bible dictates that marriage is the union between one man and one woman, and that homosexuality is a sin. 

“Colorado interprets its public-accommodation law to forbid Smith from expressing her desired messages about marriage. In its view, graphic artists who create websites celebrating opposite-sex marriages must do the same for same-sex marriages, and refusing to do so subjects those artists to punishment,” read the amicus brief. “By adopting this position, Colorado violates the constitutional rights of its citizens, because the First amendment prohibits States from forcing individuals, including people who create custom speech for a living, to speak in favor of same-sex marriage.” 

In a press release, Brnovich asserted that business owners like Smith have a constitutional right to discern speech as part of their business.

“Owners of small companies do not give up their constitutional rights as a cost of doing business,” said Brnovich. “Freedoms of speech, belief, and expression are at the core of who we are as Americans, and our government is out of line to infringe on them.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represents Smith. They’re a nonprofit legal team that represented another Colorado business owner in a similar case: Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

“As a Christian artist, I was really excited to step into the wedding industry and use my artistic talents. Except, there’s a Colorado law that prevents me from continuing my work and forces me to violate my beliefs and speak messages I don’t agree with,” stated Smith. “Every American should have the right to control the content of their own speech.”

Nebraska, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia joined Arizona in the amicus brief.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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