The US Supreme Court dealt a blow to LGBTQ rights, ruling in favor of a web designer from Colorado who cited her Christian beliefs as a reason for refusing to make websites for same-sex weddings.
The justices, divided 6-3 on ideological lines, said that Lorie Smith, as a creative professional, has a free speech right under the Constitution’s First Amendment to refuse to endorse messages she disagrees with. As a result, she cannot be punished under Colorado’s antidiscrimination law for refusing to design websites for gay couples, the court said.
The ruling could allow other owners of similar creative businesses to evade punishment under laws in 29 states that protect LGBTQ rights in public accommodations in some form. The remaining 21 states do not have laws explicitly protecting LGBTQ rights in public accommodations, although some local municipalities do.
Smith, who opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds and runs a business designing websites, sued the state in 2016 because she said she would like to accept customers planning opposite-sex weddings but reject requests made by same-sex couples wanting the same service. She was never penalized for rejecting a same-sex couple — and it’s unclear if she ever did — but sued on hypothetical grounds.
Smith argued that as a creative professional she has a free speech right to refuse to undertake work that conflicts with her views.