Designer ready for high court fight on excluding gay couples

Nov 7, 2022, 5:52 PM | Updated: 11:04 pm
Web designer Lorie Smith is shown in her office on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in the southwest part of L...

Web designer Lorie Smith is shown in her office on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in the southwest part of Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — A Christian web designer who contends her religious beliefs prevent her from making wedding websites for gay couples said Monday that her legal battle in the U.S. Supreme Court next month is about protecting everyone’s right to free speech.

Lorie Smith spoke about her case, which is the latest clash over religion and LGBTQ rights to reach the nation’s highest court, while sitting in the office she uses for her design company in the Denver suburb of Littleton. The room was adorned with two crosses and a wooden plaque inscribed with a line from Ephesians: “I am God’s masterpiece.”

Smith claims Colorado’s anti-discrimination law violates her right to free speech over same-sex marriages, which she maintains are antithetical to her Christian values. Though Smith hasn’t yet expanded to her services to include wedding websites with her company, 303 Creative, she said she’s dreamed about doing so since she was a child.

“Colorado is censoring and compelling my speech,” said Smith, who identifies as evangelical non-denominational. “Forcing me to communicate, celebrate and create for messages that go against my deeply held beliefs.”

Her argument is debatable.

David Cole, national legal director for the ACLU, which opposes Smith’s suit, contends that the state’s anti-discrimination law merely requires businesses offer their services to everyone and does not curtail speech. Smith would be within her right to include a statement on her websites saying that she disagrees with same sex marriage, Cole said, but she cannot refuse to serve customers based on their sexual orientation.

To Cole, a ruling in Smith’s favor would be opening Pandora’s box.

“If 303 Creative prevails here, then any business that can be characterized as expressive, and that’s a lot of businesses, can start putting up signs saying no Jews served, no Christians served, no Blacks served,” Cole said. “We had that practice during Jim Crow, I don’t think we want that practice back again.”

Smith’s case, which is scheduled to be heard on Dec. 5, comes before a U.S. Supreme Court that now has a majority of conservative judges. The court has recently overturned women’s constitutional right to an abortion and set a new precedent for gun control regulations in a case in New York.

Cole argues the designer still faces an uphill battle because the court has disagreed with similar arguments in the past.

“If the court rules for Lorie Smith it would have to reverse a long line of precedents and break from an unbroken set of cases,” Cole said.

Smith, who says she’s served LGBTQ clients, claims the lawsuit is not about gay marriage or the customer, only the freedom from being coerced into expressing ideas contrary to her beliefs. She believes a ruling in her favor would protect everyone’s free speech.

The court has said it would look only at the free speech issue in Smith’s case. It said it would decide whether a law that requires an artist to speak or stay silent violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

The impetus to file her lawsuit challenging Colorado’s law, Smith said, was not just about her own business but also what she said was the way the state pushed others of her faith to act against their beliefs, such as cake baker Jack Phillips.

Phillips, who had refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012, also faced off in the high court against Colorado. A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision gave Phillips a partial victory, saying that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with anti-religious bias against Phillips. But it did not rule on the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to LGBTQ people.

“I don’t think I really have another choice than to stand up not only for my right but the rights of others,” said Smith. “That includes myself as an artist and it also includes the LGBT web designer who should not be forced to create and design messages that oppose same sex marriage.”

___

Jesse Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Train service in Nigeria capital resumes after deadly attack

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Rail service in Nigeria’s capital city resumed on Monday, eight months after assailants attacked a train with explosives and gunfire, killing seven people and abducting dozens of passengers. Only a handful of passengers and armed security personnel were aboard the first trip from Abuja to neighboring Kaduna state. “We are not […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

‘Torso Killer’ admits killing 5 women decades ago near NYC

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A serial killer known as the “Torso Killer” admitted Monday to killing a 23-year-old woman outside a Long Island shopping mall in 1968 and four other women decades ago. Richard Cottingham was arraigned earlier this year on a second-degree murder charge in connection with Diane Cusick’s death during a trip she […]
10 hours ago
This cover image released by Dutton shows "Three-edged Sword" by Jeff Lindsay. (Dutton via AP)...
Associated Press

Review: Thief forced to steal a vital U.S. defense secret

“Three-Edged Sword,” by Jeff Lindsay (Dutton) After the Cold War, former Soviet spy Ivo Balodis built himself a fortress in an abandoned missile site on an island in the Baltic Sea. There, he has continued to deal in secrets — but for profit instead of for country. Balodis is now in possession of America’s most […]
10 hours ago
FILE - Insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump riot outside the Capitol in Washington, on Jan...
Associated Press

Ex-town official gets 15 days for role in Jan. 6 riot

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts ex-town official seen on surveillance video marching through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced to 15 days in prison for her role in the riot carried out by supporters of former Republican President Donald Trump to stop the transfer of presidential power to Democrat Joe Biden. Suzanne […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

Lockheed teams with Israel’s Rafael on laser defense

JERUSALEM (AP) — U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp. and Israeli defense contractor Rafael on Monday said they will team up to develop a high-energy laser system to defend against aerial attacks. The system will be based on ” Iron Beam,” a laser missile-defense system that Rafael has been developing with Israel’s Defense Ministry. The […]
10 hours ago
FILE - Former New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin leaves a hearing in federal court on Apri...
Associated Press

Bribery, fraud charges dismissed against ex-NY Lt. Governor

NEW YORK (AP) — Bribery and fraud charges against former New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin were tossed out Monday by a federal judge, leaving Benjamin to face only records falsification charges and prompting his lawyers to say it was tragic that the case was ever brought. Judge J. Paul Oetken in a written opinion […]
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Designer ready for high court fight on excluding gay couples