Supreme Court hears gay marriage opponent’s challenge to anti-discrimination law

A wedding website designer wants the justices to OK her denial of LGBTQ couples.

The Supreme Court is set to hear a case concerning a Christian graphic designer who intends to limit her wedding-related services to celebrations of heterosexual unions.Credit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

DENVER — Four years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled narrowly in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, the justices are preparing to take up a potentially more sweeping and consequential question: whether public accommodation laws that require business owners to offer all customers their goods and services infringe on freedom of speech.

Denver wedding website designer Lorie Smith, who opposes same-sex marriage, is asking the high court to strike down Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which would require her to serve LGBTQ couples or face fines. She says the law, which has no exemptions, forces her to implicitly express support for something that violates her religious beliefs.

“While I’m happy to serve everyone, and I have served everyone, including those who identify as LGBT, there are certain messages I am unable to promote through my business,” Smith told ABC News.

The case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, pits the free speech clause of the First Amendment against legislative efforts to stamp out discrimination against minority groups, particularly the LGBTQ community. Lower federal courts sided with Colorado, saying it has an overriding interest in ensuring equal access to publicly available goods and services.

“If you’re open to the public, you need to accommodate everybody. That’s a core of our civil rights law, and it has deep roots in American law,” said Colorado Attorney General Phillip Weiser.

If the justices were to allow a “free speech exemption” from anti-discrimination protections, Weiser said, the impact could extend far beyond sexual orientation to potentially allow discrimination based on someone’s religion, race or ethnicity.

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