U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Colorado Anti-LGBTQ Designer Case

U.S. Supreme Court to rule on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The United States Supreme Court is preparing to examine a case that may significantly impact the rights of LGBTQ Americans.

At the heart of the case is a Colorado-based web designer who intends to deny services to LGBTQ+ individuals, claiming that providing such services would conflict with her religious principles.

A ruling supporting the web designer's stance by the Supreme Court could establish a hazardous precedent, potentially enabling discriminatory practices against the LGBTQ+ community across numerous industries, from eateries to event venues.

The Struggle For Equality Continues

It has been seven years since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, but the issue of whether businesses can refuse service to LGBTQ+ couples based on religious objections continues to be a controversial and divisive one.

Proponents of so-called “religious freedom” laws argue business owners should not be forced to violate their sincerely held beliefs to serve the public. However, many LGBTQ+ advocacy groups counter such laws amount to nothing more than legalized discrimination.

The issue of religious freedom versus anti-discrimination laws has come to a head in recent years as more and more same-sex couples have attempted to purchase marital services, such as wedding cakes and flowers, and have been denied service by businesses that oppose equal marriage on religious grounds.

And that’s almost what happened in Colorado.

Smith v. The State Of Colorado

Smith v. the State of Colorado is a unique case because it does not involve a lawsuit brought by a customer. Rather, it is a dispute between the business owner and the State that began when Smith sought an exemption from the nondiscrimination law. The State of Colorado denied Smith’s request for an exemption, and Smith then sued the State.

Lorie Smith is a web designer who was planning to expand her business, 303 Creative, to offer services to couples getting married. However, because of her religious beliefs, she wanted to post a statement on her site that she would not offer her services for same-sex marriages.

Colorado is one of 24 states that have laws prohibiting businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

The legal battle was long, but justice prevailed at first. A federal appeals court ruled that the Colorado designer’s refusal to make websites for same-sex couples violated the state’s nondiscrimination law.

Smith said the Colorado government cannot force her to do something that goes against her core beliefs. As a result, her attorneys then asked the Supreme Court to take up the case and overturn the lower courts’ decisions. In their petition, they argue that the Colorado law “compels speech based on viewpoint, and creates a pro-LGBT gerrymander by requiring religious artists to celebrate same-sex marriage while allowing other artists to decline messages like ‘God is dead.’”

“No one should be forced to say something that they don’t believe,” said Kristen Waggoner, general counsel at the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom that represents Smith. “It’s not the government that should be making that choice.”

The State of Colorado has asked the court not to hear the case, arguing that the lawsuit is not a customer complaint but a dispute between a company and the state in which it is located.

The Supreme Court considered Smith’s appeal under two clauses of the First Amendment: one protecting religious freedom and the other protecting free speech. And the court just indicated in a brief order that it would take up the case to determine “whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”

The court clarified that it would only consider free speech and has announced that it will hear the case of Smith v. Colorado during its next session, which is scheduled to begin in October.

We Need A Federal Nondiscrimination Law

Four years ago, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to create a personalized wedding cake for a same-sex couple, ignited a raging debate. At the heart of the issue was whether religious freedom trumps LGBTQ rights or vice versa. But the court’s decision focused narrowly on how the Colorado civil rights commission had treated Phillips and sidestepped the deeper issues.

The current legal landscape is a patchwork of laws and court decisions that vary by state, and sometimes even by municipality. Some states have laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination, while others do not. This patchwork of laws can make it difficult for LGBTQ+ people to navigate their rights and protections.

All the recent lawsuits against businesses that discriminated against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity highlight the need for federal nondiscrimination protections.

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Wednesday, 24 July 2024