WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is hearing the case Monday of a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples, a dispute that's the latest clash of religion and gay rights to land at the highest court.
A number of people were outside the High Court Monday voicing their own opinions on the case.
Colorado designer Lorie Smith and her supporters say ruling against her would force artists including painters, photographers, writers and musicians to do work that is against their faith. Smith's opponents say if she wins, a range of businesses will be able to discriminate, refusing to serve Black customers, Jewish or Muslim people, interracial or interfaith couples or immigrants, among others.
Smith wants to begin offering wedding websites. She says her Christian faith prevents her from creating websites celebrating same-sex marriages. But that could get her in trouble with state law. Colorado, like most other states, has what's called a public accommodation law that says if Smith offers wedding websites to the public, she must provide them to all customers. Businesses that violate the law can be fined, among other things.
Five years ago, the Supreme Court heard a different challenge involving Colorado's law and a baker, Jack Phillips, who objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple. That case ended with a limited decision, however, and set up a return of the issue to the high court. Phillips' lawyer, Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, is now representing Smith.
Like Phillips, Smith says her objection is not to working with gay people. She says she'd work with a gay client who needed help with graphics for an animal rescue shelter, for example, or to promote an organization serving children with disabilities. But she objects to creating messages supporting same-sex marriage, she says, just as she won't take jobs that would require her to create content promoting atheism or gambling or supporting abortion.
Smith says Colorado’s law violates her free speech rights. Her opponents, including the Biden administration and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, disagree.
Twenty mostly liberal states, including California and New York, are supporting Colorado while another 20 mostly Republican states, including Arizona, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, are supporting Smith.
The case is 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, 21-476.