By Daniel Stefanski |
On its last day of the term, the U.S. Supreme Court gave a major victory for the First Amendment, leading to mixed reactions from Arizona elected officials and advocates.
In a 6-3 opinion authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for 303 Creative LLC in the case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. The case centered on a Colorado businesswoman, Ms. Lorie Smith, who “filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the State from forcing her to create websites celebrating marriages that defy her belief that marriage should be reserved to unions between one man and one woman.” The majority coalition in the Court held that “the First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees.”
As part of his prevailing opinion, Justice Gorsuch wrote, “But, as this Court has long held, 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. Of course, abiding the Constitution’s commitment to the freedom of speech means all of us will encounter ideas we consider ‘unattractive,’ post, at 38 (opinion of SOTOMAYOR, J.), ‘misguided, or even hurtful,’ Hurley, 515 U. S., at 574. But tolerance, not coercion, is our Nation’s answer. The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands. Because Colorado seeks to deny that promise, the judgment is reversed.”
The opinion sparked applause and outrage across the country – especially in Arizona. Center for Arizona Policy, one of the state’s influential pro-life and pro-family organizations, released a statement to cheer on the decision from the six justices in the majority, writing, “The ruling is a huge victory for those who do not want government telling them what to say or what messages they must create. That goes for the liberal publisher who does not want to publish a book with conservative views, as well as for the religious website designer who does not want to promote weddings that violate her religious beliefs. Today’s ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis acknowledges the difference between disagreement and discrimination by distinguishing between serving all people and promoting all messages. Lorie Smith happily designs websites for all customers but cannot create messages that run counter to her deeply held beliefs. Her decision is based on the message, not the person. Today, the Court affirms that difference.”
Democrat Attorney General Kris Mayes took the opposite view, saying, “Today, a woefully misguided majority of the United States Supreme Court has decided that businesses open to the public may, in certain circumstances, discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans. While my office is still reviewing the decision to determine its effects, I agree with Justice Sotomayor – the idea that the Constitution gives businesses the right to discriminate is ‘profoundly wrong.’”
Mayes added that “Despite today’s ruling, Arizona law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation, including discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity. If any Arizonan believes that they have been the victim of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), national origin, or ancestry in a place of public accommodation, they should file a complaint with my office. I will continue to enforce Arizona’s public accommodation law to its fullest extent.”
The Arizona House Democrats Caucus also weighed in on the decision, tweeting, “This is not about weddings. This is about creating a religious right to discriminate against protected classes across a broad front of services, taking our country back to Jim Crow. And using a fake case to do it. Shameful.”
Republican Representative Travis Grantham, the Arizona House Speaker Pro Tempore, responded to the Democrats’ attack: “And the award for dumbest take ever goes to……”
The Arizona Attorney General’s position on the case’s outcome is a complete reversal of her predecessor’s, who, in 2022, co-led a coalition of states in filing an amicus brief, which urged the nation’s high court “to defend the First Amendment rights of business owners.” At that time, Mark Brnovich said, “Owners of small companies do not give up their constitutional rights as a cost of doing business. 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.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.