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A Court Rules Against Web Designer that Sued Against Colorado Anti-Discrimination Law

Colorado designer who wont make same-sex wedding websites loses case

A federal court has made a recent ruling that ensured a Colorado wedding website designer is not able to refuse to serve same-sex couples due to her religious beliefs. The designer, Lorie Smith, didn’t want to create wedding websites for LGBTQ+ couples and then sued Colorado’s anti-discrimination law. 

The panel consisted of three judges during the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

What Decision Did the Judges Make?

The decision took place on Monday, June 26th. During this ruling, judges denied the request set forth by Lorie Smith, who owns 303 Creative, for exemption on free speech according to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). As a result, they ended up throwing out her legal request.

In the 2-1 ruling, the panel confirmed that they were invested in protecting marginalized groups’ “dignity interests” through its law.

The state law protects residents of Colorado from discrimination, like sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result, Smith has to work with same-sex wedding clients.

According to judges Michael R. Murphy and Mary Beck Briscoe in a 103-page written document: 

“Colorado’s interest in protecting its citizens from the harms of discrimination relies upon the full enforcement of civil rights laws. Combatting such discrimination is, like individual autonomy, ‘essential’ to our democratic ideals.”

The court pointed out how essential it is to protect “minority viewpoints” and that “a faith that enriches society in one way might also damage society in another, particularly when that faith would exclude others from unique goods or services.”

Who Represented Smith?

Smith’s representation was the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). They are a right-wing Christian legal organization founded in 1994 that has written countless anti-LGBTQ+ bills across the United States over the years. Their anti-LGBTQ+ bills include legislation in 2021 that targets transgender youth.

The Alliance Defending Freedom used the argument that the law made Smith violate her Christian beliefs.

The Christian leaders declared they would appeal Monday’s ruling due to concerns about religious freedom. According to their senior counsel, John Bursch:

“The government should never force creative professionals to promote a message or cause with which they disagree. That is quintessential free speech and artistic freedom.

However, Lambda Legal, a group that advocates for the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people, created a brief in support of the Colorado law.

According to their senior counsel Jennifer C. Pizer:

“This really isn’t about cake or websites or flowers. It’s about protecting LGBTQ people and their families from being subjected to slammed doors, service refusals and public humiliation in countless places — from fertility clinics to funeral homes and everywhere in between.”

How Else Has This Law Come Into Play in Colorado?

The anti-discrimination law is the very same one that relates to the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips.

During this case, the court determined that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had an anti-religious bias against Phillips when he wouldn’t bake a cake for two men getting married. However, it did not rule on the more significant issue of whether or not a business can use religious reasons to deny service to LGBTQ+ folks.

The Alliance Defending Freedom also were the representatives for Phillips.

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Billie Olsen

MODEL: Billie Olsen

Billie Olsen (she/they) is a lifestyle writer, disability justice advocate, and cozy femme located in Kelowna, BC, Canada. Their works have appeared in Metro News, Discorder, Sophomore Magazine, the Post-Feminist Post, DINE Magazine, and NerdReader.