Lawyers for Colorado Christian web designer told to accept same-sex project look to SCOTUS for ruling

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The legal team for a Christian website designer whom Colorado wants to compel to create sites that celebrate same-sex marriage is “very hopeful” that the Supreme Court will rule in their client’s favor.

The case is of interest to many because the Supreme Court has become increasingly protective of religious freedoms in recent years as former President Donald Trump appointed three conservative justices, giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority. Those on the left say the court’s embrace of religious freedoms is coming at the expense of LGBT rights.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the First Amendment religious freedom case on Dec. 5. The case is 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, court file 21-476. The respondent, Aubrey Elenis, is being sued in her official capacity as Director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

The left has been targeting bakers for years for political purposes, asking Christian confectioners who are opposed to same-sex marriage to bake wedding cakes for gay marriage celebrations, knowing that they’ll be met with resistance. When the bakers refuse to make the cakes, these activists sue under anti-discrimination laws, hoping to secure favorable legal precedents.

In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018), the Supreme Court sided with a Christian baker whom a gay couple had asked to create a custom cake to celebrate their union. A state human rights commission violated Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips’s First Amendment right to free exercise of religion by ruling against him, the court found.

But in the case at hand, artist and website designer Lorie Smith of 303 Creative is being singled out by the same Colorado human rights commission because, based on her religious faith, she does not support non-traditional marriage.

Smith has said she is willing to design custom websites for anyone, including those who identify as LGBT, so long as their message does not conflict with her religious views. This means she will not promote messages that condone violence or encourage sexual immorality, abortion, or same-sex marriage. When clients want such messages expressed, Smith refers them to other website designers.

Smith drafted a statement announcing she was entering the wedding business and laying out what content she was and was not willing to create. She took legal action after she discovered that under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) she was not allowed to post her statement. CADA requires that she create websites celebrating same-sex marriage and bans her explanatory statement. Despite her views, Smith still received a request to produce a same-sex wedding website, according to the petition she filed with the Supreme Court.

In July 2021, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled against Smith, finding that Colorado can compel her to create websites promoting messages that contradict her beliefs about marriage.

A member of Smith’s legal team, Jake Warner, a senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), spoke with The Epoch Times.

“We’re very hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will affirm the right of all Americans to say what they believe without fear of government punishment,” Warner said in an interview.

“That’s what this case is about,” the lawyer added.

Smith wants to create custom graphics and websites “celebrating God’s design for marriage between a man and a woman, but Lorie lives in Colorado, and they say that she’s not welcome in that space,” Warner said.

“They want to force her to create custom websites promoting other views of marriage that go against her deepest beliefs. And about six years ago, Lorie looked around and saw how her state was prosecuting cake artist Jack Phillips, punishing him, prosecuting him all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, trying to force him to express messages that went against his deeply held beliefs.”

“When Lorie saw what the state was doing to Jack, she wondered, ‘well, am I under threat? Can the state punish me if I create art consistent with my beliefs?’ And when she found out the answer was yes, she decided to challenge the unjust law and advocate for her right, the right of all Americans, to say what they believe without fear of government punishment.”

Smith launched this “pre-enforcement challenge,” because “she didn’t want to enter the wedding field and start creating custom websites consistent with her beliefs only to be punished and be dragged through a decade of litigation,” Warner said.

The Epoch Times reached out for comment to Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson, who is representing the state before the high court, but had not received a reply as of press time.

In August, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat, urged the high court to uphold the state law.

“Public accommodations laws enacted in Colorado and across the country protect equal access to goods and services and the dignity of all customers. Colorado’s law regulates ordinary business sales. The mere act of selling something to all on equal terms is not expressive conduct, and the law does not compel businesses to speak or stay silent,” Weiser said.

“Advertisements that effectively say ‘straight couples only’ are not protected by the Court’s free speech precedents. Rather, the Court has repeatedly affirmed the state’s ability to regulate ordinary sales discrimination and it should do so again in this case.”

This article by Matthew Vadum appeared Dec. 1, 2022, in The Epoch Times.

Photo: Christian website designer Lorie Smith, owner of 303 Creative, poses in an undated photo outside the Supreme Court. (Photo courtesy Alliance Defending Freedom)