In a defeat for gay rights, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled Friday that a Christian graphic designer who wants to create wedding websites can refuse to offer her services to same-sex couples.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissent that the decision resulted in “marking gays and lesbians as second-class citizens” and opened the door to discrimination of other kinds.
The court ruled 6-3 in favor of graphic designer Lorie Smith, saying she could refuse to create websites for same-sex weddings even though Colorado has a law prohibiting discrimination based on orientation, sex, race, gender and other characteristics. The court said forcing them to create websites could be a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech.
The ruling indicates that artists, photographers, videographers and writers are among those who can refuse to provide what the court described as expressive services if doing so contradicts their beliefs. But this is different from other businesses outside the language and therefore outside the First Amendment, such as restaurants and hotels.
Writing on behalf of the court’s six conservative justices, Justice Neil Gorsuch said the First Amendment “understands the United States as a rich and complex place where all people are free to think and express themselves as they choose and not as they request.” Gorsuch said the court has long held that “the ability to think for yourself and express those ideas freely is among and part of our most valued freedoms , what keeps our republic strong.”
The ruling represents a triumph for religious rights and joins a number of cases in which judges have ruled in favor of religious plaintiffs. Last year, for example, the court ruled in favor of a football coach who prayed on the field of his public high school after games. And on Thursday, in a unanimous decision, the court used the case of a Christian mailman who refused to deliver Amazon packages on Sundays to strengthen protections for workers who request special work arrangements for religious reasons.
The decision also represents a setback for gay rights in the courts. For nearly three decades, the highest court has expanded the rights of LGBTQ people, most notably when it granted same-sex couples the right to marry in 2015 and five years later in a ruling by Gorsuch The ruling proclaimed that the Civil Rights Act protects gays, lesbians and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace.
However, in the recent decision, Gorsuch said that a verdict against Smith would have allowed the government to “compel, under penalty of punishment, all types of artists, speechwriters, and others whose services are concerned with expression.” they don’t believe.” “For example, a gay website designer could be forced to design a page for an organization that opposes same-sex marriage, he wrote. “Countless other creatives could also be forced to choose between remaining silent and speaking to formulate words that violate their beliefs, or to speak out and impose sanctions for doing so.”
The court’s liberal justices warned that the decision would give a wide range of companies the opportunity to discriminate.
“Today, for the first time in its history, the Court grants a public business the constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class,” Sotomayor wrote in a dissent joined by Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Sotomayor, who read a summary of her dissent to the court to underscore her disagreement, said the decision’s logic “should not be limited to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” A web designer might refuse to design a wedding website for an interracial couple a stationery store might refuse to sell a birth announcement to a disabled couple, and a retail store might limit its portrait services to “traditional” families. wrote.