U.S. Supreme Court to hear case involving Colorado web designer's refusal to serve gay couples

Supreme Court
Posted at 5:53 PM, Feb 22, 2022

DENVER — The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a Colorado-based web designer who won't build wedding websites for same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs.

Lorie Smith of Littleton owns 303 Creative, a website and graphic design company. As a Christian, Smith believes marriage is between a man and a woman. She wants to expand into building wedding websites, but that would mean denying services to gay couples.

"I can't create a site that would celebrate views contrary to my beliefs," Smith said. "Like all artists, there are some messages that I can't pour my heart, my imagination and my talents into creating because they violate my core convictions."

Since 2016, she's been challenging Colorado's anti-discrimination law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Smith's legal team says the law violates her free speech.

"The government shouldn't weaponize the law to force a web designer to speak messages that violate her beliefs," said Kristen Waggoner, general counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom.

The matter has been taken up before and was thrown out in district court. Smith and her team appealed that decision, which was also rejected. Now, the high court will decide whether a law like Colorado's violates an artist's First Amendment rights.

"I am hopeful that they will rule in favor of free speech for all artists and, ultimately, for everyone," Smith said.

Gillian Ford, communications director with LGBTQ advocacy group One Colorado, says Smith choosing to deny service to same-sex couples is discrimination.

"As a web designer, she has decided to open up a business that's open to the Colorado public, and so any business open to the public offers goods or services to any Coloradan," she said.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser agrees. He issued the following statement to Denver7:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that antidiscrimination laws, like Colorado’s, apply to all businesses selling goods and services. Companies cannot turn away LGBTQ customers just because of who they are. We will vigorously defend Colorado’s laws, which protect all Coloradans by preventing discrimination and upholding free speech.”

Smith hopes the Supreme Court will rule in her favor this fall, as it did in the 2018 case involving Lakewood's Masterpiece Cakeshop. LGBTQ advocates hope for the opposite.