WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will hear the case Monday of a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples, a dispute that marks the latest clash of religion and gay rights to go to the Supreme Court.
The designer and her supporters say a ruling against her artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — would force them to do work that goes against their beliefs. Her detractors, meanwhile, say that if she wins, a range of companies will be able to discriminate and refuse to serve black customers, Jewish or Muslim people, interracial or interfaith couples, or immigrants, among others.
The case comes at a time when the court is dominated 6 to 3 by conservatives and after a series of cases in which the judges have sided with religious plaintiffs. It’s also because, across the court, legislators in Congress are finalizing a landmark law protecting same-sex marriage.
The bill, which also protects interracial marriages, has been gaining steady momentum following the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year to end constitutional protections for abortion. That decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade case raised questions about whether the court — now more conservative — could also overturn its 2015 decision declaring a nationwide right to same-sex marriage. Justice Clarence Thomas explicitly said the decision should also be reconsidered.
The case, which will be heard in the Supreme Court on Monday, concerns Lorie Smith, a graphic artist and website designer in Colorado who wants to start offering wedding websites. Smith says her Christian faith keeps her from creating websites that celebrate same-sex marriages. But that could get her in trouble with state law. Colorado, like most other states, has a so-called public lodging law that says if Smith offers wedding websites to the public, she must provide them to all clients. Entrepreneurs who violate the law can be fined, among other things.
Five years ago, the Supreme Court heard another challenge involving Colorado law and a baker, Jack Phillips, objecting to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple. However, that case ended with a limited decision and prompted a return of the issue to the Supreme Court. Phillips’ attorney, Kristen Wagoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, is now representing Smith.
Like Phillips, Smith says her objection isn’t to working with gay people. She says she would work with a gay client who needed help with images for, say, an animal shelter or to promote an organization that works for children with disabilities. But she objects to making posts in support of same-sex marriage, she says, just as she won’t take jobs that would require her to create content that promotes atheism or gambling or supports abortion.
Smith says Colorado law violates her right to free speech. 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, support Colorado, while another 20 mostly Republican states, including Arizona, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, support Smith.
The case is 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, 21-476.
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