Colorado Web Designer Who Refused To Create Gay Marriage Websites Loses Court Appeal
By Leah Asmelash, CNN
A Colorado web designer who didn’t want to build wedding websites for same-sex couples lost his appeal to the state’s anti-discrimination law.
The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit rejected 303 The challenge by Lorie Smith, owner of creation, of state law on constitutional grounds.
The appeal decision comes three years after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a baker in the same state who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Court of Appeal Judge Mary Beck Briscoe, writing for the majority, agreed with the dissenting judge, writing “diversity of faiths and religious exercise” including Smith “enriches society” .
But the judge wrote that while Smith’s free speech and exercise rights were “compelling,” they did not override Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.
Smith was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit conservative Christian advocacy group, which argued that decision-making forces his client to post websites that violate their religious beliefs.
“The government should never force creative professionals to promote a message or cause with which they disagree. It is the epitome of free speech and artistic freedom, ”said John Bursch, senior advisor to ADF and vice president of appeal advocacy. in a report following the decision.
ADF General Counsel Kristen Wagoner, who represented Smith, said the group was considering appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a statement via the ADF, Smith said she “works with everyone” but does not promote “all messages” through her designs.
“Just because artists communicate one point of view doesn’t mean they should be forced to promote an opposite point of view. The government doesn’t just tell me what I can’t say; he tells me what to say. I look forward to appealing the court’s decision and standing up for the freedom of all Americans to choose the messages they express, ”Smith said.
In his dissent, Chief Justice Timothy Tymkovich wrote that the the majority opinion “approves of substantial government interference in matters of speech, religion and conscience”.
“The Constitution does not compel Ms. Smith to compromise her beliefs or condone the government to do so,” he wrote. “In fact, this case illustrates exactly why we have a First Amendment. Properly applied, the Constitution protects Ms. Smith from the government telling her what to say or what to do.
Smith was willing to create graphics or websites for LGBTQ customers, according to opinion, but intended to decline to create wedding websites for same-sex couples, a service she planned to start offering to people in opposite-sex relationships.
Conflicts between a business owner’s religious beliefs and LGBTQ rights, related to the sale of goods and services, have been frequently debated in the courts in recent years, most notably in the Supreme Court ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Although the court ruled in favor of the bakery, decision did not resolve broader constitutional questions on religious freedom.
Last month, a Denver district court found that Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips had violated state discrimination laws refusing to bake a birthday cake for a trans woman.
Since its 2018 ruling, the Supreme Court has largely avoided hearing similar cases. In 2019, the court returned a similar case, involving an Oregon bakery that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, to court of Appeal.
This month the Supreme Court refused to appeal from Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, who declined to make a flower arrangement for a same-sex couple due to religious concerns. The Washington State Supreme Court had already ruled against Stutzman in June, saying his refusal violated anti-discrimination laws.
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