More than 50 congressional Republicans have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court calling on the nation’s highest court to side with a Colorado website designer who wants the power to refuse to create personalized websites for same-sex couples.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) are leading the effort to show their support for designer Lorie Smith, enlisting 18 other senators and 38 representatives to sign the memoir, which throws out the denial of Smith to serve same-sex couples as a matter of religious freedom and artistic expression protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Smith, the owner of 303 Creative LLC, says she should be allowed to refuse to create websites for same-sex couples based on her personal religious beliefs opposed to homosexuality and refusal to communicate a message that implicitly supports the same gender. sexual marriage.
Seeking the help of anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, Smith sued the state of Colorado in 2016, demanding an exemption from Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, which prohibits businesses that open as accommodations public to discriminate against people. based on sexual orientation.
Smith says she will do work for LGBTQ clients, but creating wedding websites for those people would not only violate her religious beliefs, but violate her freedom of artistic expression, because every website she creates is a purpose-built, one-of-a-kind site. -kind product reflecting own creativity.
A federal district judge ruled against Smith in September 2019, finding that his proposal to release a statement outlining his objection to promoting same-sex marriages “proposes an unlawful act” because it would deny services to same-sex couples based on their relationships. sexual. orientation. She appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court’s decision.
Smith’s attorneys then appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which agreed to consider whether the application of a public accommodations law to compel an artist to speak or keep the silence violates the artist’s free speech rights. The court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case in the fall.
The case seeks to clarify a point of law left unclear by the High Court’s 2018 decision Masterpiece pastry decision, in which the Supreme Court found that a Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, was treated with anti-religious bias by state officials when he refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. However, the court did not address the broader question of whether certain businesses can claim a religious exemption that would allow them to refuse to serve certain customers based on their personal beliefs.
The Supreme Court has already dodged the issue by refusing to hear cases involving the question of whether marriage-related services, such as baking or flower arranging, are inherently forms of “artistic expression” or simply a service or product made available (at least hypothetically, but not in practice) to the general public.
In their amicus brief, members of Congress say Colorado’s anti-discrimination law cannot withstand legal scrutiny and infringes on the rights of Smith and other business owners who oppose same-sex marriage.
“These are not aberrations. Time and time again, this Court has refused to sanction laws mandating speech or restricting speech on the basis of content or point of view, despite government arguments that such laws were necessary to serve important interests,” says the memory. “Regardless of the interest at stake, the First Amendment almost always wins.”
Republicans also argue that Colorado law simply requires people who oppose homosexuality and same-sex marriage to “express opinions with which they disagree” or remain silent.
“As the Tenth Circuit has recognized, same-sex couples have no shortage of alternative options for wedding web design. The state insists that the availability of these myriad alternatives is just as the “guide to identifying safe accommodations for African Americans at a time when some hotels were refusing them service” in Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States“, continues the memoir. “There is no similar record here. Indeed, “virtually all marriages [website] publications now publish LGBTQ+ marriages,” and “it is more noticeable if a publication does not publish LGBTQ+ marriages.
“So the purpose of applying CADA to Ms. Smith is not to provide public housing; it is to force her to conform her speech to the prevailing opinion. Yet it is well established that the state “is not free to interfere with speech for no other reason than to promote an approved message or discourage an unfavorable message, no matter how enlightened either objective may be.” hit the government,” add the Republicans.
Speaking to Fox News, Cruz touted a Supreme Court ruling in Smith’s favor as a victory for “religious freedom” for all Americans.
“Compulsory speech against anyone’s religious beliefs is a flagrant violation of the most fundamental freedoms our Constitution protects,” he said. “Every American should have the freedom to practice their profession without having to sacrifice their religious beliefs.”
Alliance Defending Freedom General Counsel Kristen Waggoner, Smith’s attorney, told right-wing CNS News that religious opposition to same-sex marriage is a protected right that dates back to a 1995 Supreme Court ruling involving the right of a Boston veterans group to ban gays, lesbians and bisexuals from marching visibly in its St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In that case, the court unanimously ruled that the LGB ban would stand, despite a Massachusetts law ostensibly protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.
She also noted that even in the Oberfell v. Hodges case legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015, the court found that the First Amendment protects people who disagree with same-sex marriage.
But LGBTQ advocates have argued that granting Smith an exemption would simply provide more scope for discrimination against LGBTQ Americans by undermining or tearing holes in existing laws that purport to protect them.
“We are once again witnessing the relentless anti-LGBTQ crusade by self-proclaimed Christian fundamentalist legal groups aiming to chip away at the hard-won gains of LGBTQ people by carving out swaths of territory where discrimination can flourish,” Jennifer Pizer, Lambda Legal’s acting chief legal officer said in a statement. “Constitutional protections of religious freedom and free speech were never intended as weapons of discrimination for those who do business with the general public.”