By Corinne Murdock |
The Scottsdale legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) won a religious freedom case at the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
SCOTUS ruled 6-3 at the end of June in 303 Creative v. Elenis against Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), as unconstitutional. The law would prohibit a Christian wedding website designer from refusing to create a same-sex wedding website.
The plaintiff, Lorie Smith, holds the Christian belief that marriage exists only between one man and one woman, and contests against the possibility that she either must produce content that “contradicts Biblical truth,” such as same-sex marriages, or cease business.
Ultimately, SCOTUS determined in a majority opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch that Smith’s creative expression constituted speech and that CADA therefore violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.
“Ms. Smith’s websites will express and communicate ideas — namely, those that ‘celebrate and promote the couple’s wedding and unique love story’ and those ‘celebrat[e] and promot[e]’ what Ms. Smith understands to be a marriage,” stated Gorsuch.
Gorsuch further criticized CADA for its fullest possible outcome: compelling speech of all manners and kinds from any commissioned person if their customer belongs to a CADA-protected class.
“Under Colorado’s logic, the government may compel anyone who speaks for pay on a given topic to accept all commissions on that same topic — no matter the message — if the topic somehow implicates a customer’s statutorily protected trait,” said Gorsuch. “Taken seriously, that principle would allow the government to force all manner of artists, speechwriters, and others whose services involve speech to speak what they do not believe on pain of penalty. The Court’s precedents recognize the First Amendment tolerates none of that.”
Smith does have LGBTQ clients; however, Smith won’t create content that runs counter to her beliefs.
After the SCOTUS ruling, ADF CEO and lead counsel Kristen Waggoner stated that differences of beliefs don’t constitute discrimination.
“Disagreement isn’t discrimination, and the government can’t mislabel speech as discrimination to censor it,” said Waggoner. “As the court highlighted, her decisions to create speech always turn on what message is requested, never on who requests it. [T]he government has never needed to compel speech to ensure access to goods and services.”
Following the ruling, critics alleged that Smith fabricated a request for a same-sex wedding website after a news article insinuated she did. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser also derided Smith’s complaint as “a made-up case without the benefit of any real facts or customers.” ADF and Smith rejected those claims.