The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Friday ruled in favor of a Colorado-born Christian web designer who refused to create same-sex wedding sites citing religious objections, it was reported in Washington DC.
The 6-3 decision was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh. and Clarence Thomas. Meanwhile, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by her liberal colleagues, Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.
The ruling favored Lorie Smith, who runs a business called 303 Creative and argued that the law violated her free speech rights. In addition, this decision will pass state public accommodation laws for those businesses selling so-called expressive goods.
It was a victory for religious conservatives that sparked fears that a 2015 decision that cleared the way for same-sex marriage nationwide might be overturned.
Gorsuch wrote that the First Amendment conceives of the United States as a rich and complex place in which all people are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government requires. According to the judge, Colorado sought to deny that promise.
He argued that all forms of expression, whether images, films, paintings, drawings, even speech, and the printed word, can be placed under the protection of the First Amendment. It can be no less so when it comes to expressions such as Ms. Smith's transmitted over the Internet, he said.
On the other hand, Sotomayor asserted that the decision will undermine the government's interest in ensuring that all Americans have equal access to the public marketplace, stating that the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.
“The opinion of the Court is, quite literally, a notice that reads: ‘Some services may be denied to same-sex couples,’” Sotomayor insisted while claiming that speech is not protected when its use amounts to an “act of discrimination.”
Specifically, the Court holds that the First Amendment exempts a website design company from a state law that prohibits the company from denying wedding websites to same-sex couples if the company chooses to sell those websites to the public, she wrote.
“It is difficult to read the dissent and conclude that we are looking at the same case,” Gorsuch wrote. “The dissent abandons what this court’s cases have recognized time and time again: A commitment to speech for only some persons and some messages is no commitment at all.”
Web designer Lorie Smith is a devout Christian who runs a business creating bespoke websites for weddings. Her lawyers claim that she is “willing to work with all people, regardless of classifications such as race, creed, sexual orientation, and gender,” but when Smith placed a message on her website in 2016 explaining that she would not create content celebrating homosexual marriage, she found herself in violation of Colorado’s 2015 Anti-Discrimination Act and sued the state.
In a similar case in 2018, the SCOTUS sided with Christian baker Jack Phillips – also from Colorado – who refused to bake a cake celebrating a gay wedding.
By definitively ruling that web design constitutes “speech,” Friday’s decision could pave the way for similar rulings in the 30 US states that have laws requiring businesses to serve everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.