Supreme Court case today: Justices spar in latest clash of religion and LBGTQ rights in Colorado case

WASHINGTON– The conservative majority of the Supreme Court on Monday sounded sympathetic to a Christian graphic artist who has objected to designing wedding websites for gay couples, a dispute that is the latest clash between religion and gay rights to end up in the Supreme Court.

The designer and her supporters say a verdict against her would force artists – from painters and photographers to writers and musicians – to work against their beliefs. Her opponents, meanwhile, say a number of companies will be able to discriminate if she wins, including refusing to serve black customers, Jewish or Muslim people, mixed-race or interfaith couples, or immigrants.

In more than two hours of lively debate, the judges repeatedly tested what a verdict might mean for the designer, using detailed and sometimes colorful hypothetical scenarios. These included a black Santa who was asked to take a picture with a child in a Ku Klux Klan outfit, a photographer who was asked to take photos for Jewish dating website JDate and also for spousal infidelity website Ashley Madison, and a grocery store called Grandma Helen’s. Protestant regulations.”

Judge Neil Gorsuch, one of three High Court-appointed former President Donald Trump, described Lorie Smith, the website designer in the case, as “a person who says she will and sells all kinds of websites to everybody, ( but) that she will not sell any website that requires her to express a view of marriage that she finds objectionable.”

Where to draw the line as to what a company could do without violating state anti-discrimination laws was a big question in Monday’s arguments in the Supreme Court.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson asked if a mall camera shop could refuse to take pictures of black people on Santa’s lap.

“Their policy is that only white children can be photographed with Santa in this way because that’s how they see the Santa scenes that they’re trying to portray,” Jackson said.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor has repeatedly pressed Kristen Waggoner, Smith’s attorney, about other categories. “What about people who don’t believe in interracial marriage? Or with people who don’t believe that people with disabilities should get married? Where is the limit?” asked Sotomayor.

But Judge Samuel Alito, who appeared to favor Smith, asked whether “is it fair to equate opposition to same-sex marriage to opposition to interracial marriage?”

The case comes at a time when the court is dominated 6-3 by Conservatives and follows a series of cases in which judges have sided with religious plaintiffs. Across the street from the courthouse, Capitol lawmakers are finalizing landmark legislation protecting same-sex marriage.

The proposed law, which would also protect interracial marriage, has gained momentum after the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year to end constitutional protections for abortion. This decision, the Roe v. Overturning Wade’s 1973 ruling raised questions about whether the court — now that it’s more conservative — could also overturn its 2015 decision, which declared a statewide right to same-sex marriage. Judge Clarence Thomas specifically said the decision should be reconsidered.

The case, which will be heard in the Supreme Court on Monday, involves Smith, a graphic artist and website designer in Colorado who wants to start offering wedding websites. Smith says her Christian faith prevents her from creating websites celebrating same-sex marriages.

“Ms. Smith believes that opposite-sex marriage honors Scripture and same-sex marriage contradicts it,” Waggoner told the judges.

But offering wedding websites to same-sex couples and refusing to design them for opposite-sex couples could land Smith in trouble with state law. Colorado, like most other states, has something called the Public Accommodations Act, which says that if Smith offers wedding websites to the public, she must make them available to all clients. Companies that break the law can be subject to fines, among other things.

Five years ago, the Supreme Court heard another lawsuit involving Colorado law and a baker, Jack Phillips, who objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple. That case ended in a limited decision and resulted in the matter being referred back to the High Court. Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom also represented Phillips.

Like Phillips, Smith says her objection is not to work with gay people. Her lawyer said she had gay clients. But she refuses to create messages supporting same-sex marriage any more than she would create a website for a couple who met while both were married to other people and then divorced.

Smith says Colorado law violates her right to free speech. Your opponents include the Biden administration, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, disagree.

Twenty mostly liberal states, including California and New York, support Colorado, while 20 other mostly Republican states, including Arizona, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, support Smith.

The case is 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, 21-476.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Supreme Court case today: Justices spar in latest clash of religion and LBGTQ rights in Colorado case

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