US Supreme Court: Web designer can refuse to provide services to same-sex couples

Washington, Jun 30 (EFE).- The conservative-majority United States Supreme Court on Friday sided with a Colorado graphic artist and website designer who had argued that for religious reasons she should not be required to provide her services to same-sex couples.

In 303 Creative LLC et al. v. Elenis et al., the high court weighed in on a case involving Lorie Smith, an evangelical Christian who filed a lawsuit in 2016 seeking an exemption from a state anti-discrimination law.

A federal district court in Colorado held that Ms. Smith was not entitled to the injunction she sought, and the Denver-based US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld that lower-court ruling.

The Supreme Court’s vote split on ideological lines, with the six conservative-leaning justices finding that Smith’s First Amendment free-speech rights took precedent over the Colorado law banning discrimination on sexual orientation grounds.

The high court’s three progressive justices dissented against the majority, arguing that Smith’s discriminatory actions did not constitute protected expression.

Justice Neil Gorsuch argued in the majority opinion that Smith’s refusal to accept work making same-sex wedding announcements is protected by the constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression and religion.

“In this case, Colorado seeks to force an individual to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance,” he wrote.

“The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands,” Gorsuch added.

“Because Colorado seeks to deny that promise, the judgment is reversed.”

In a dissenting opinion, progressive Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the Supreme 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.”

No specific same-sex couple was denied service by Smith’s establishment, 303 Creative, which is no longer in business.

In a 2018 decision that left key constitutional questions on religious freedoms unsettled, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who due to religious objections refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Friday’s ruling was the latest in a series of decisions that have expanded religious rights in the US.

Last year, the conservative-majority high court sided with a Christian public high-school football coach who had been fired after refusing to stop leading prayers on the field with his players after games.

On Thursday, the court ruled in favor of an evangelical Christian postal worker who had sued the US Postal Service for religious discrimination for rejecting his request to not work Sunday shifts. EFE


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