SCOTUS Hears Key Case Regarding Free Speech

SCOTUS Hears Key Case Regarding Free Speech

( – In some instances, discrimination has two opposing views. On Monday, December 5, the US Supreme Court heard such a case. Over the last few years, the High Court’s conservative majority has consistently ruled in favor of religious causes. They have ranged from lockdowns to adoption and whether or not a state can discriminate against a person of faith. In 2018, the Justices said a Colorado anti-discrimination law couldn’t compel a baker to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because that would violate sincerely held religious beliefs.

Now, the court will decide whether the state can compel a web designer to create a wedding website for same-sex couples. Lori Smith owns a custom website design firm in Colorado and is also an evangelical Christian. She said it violates her conscience to design wedding websites for gay couples. She has proactively challenged the state’s anti-discrimination law citing her free speech rights.

Web Designer Challenges Law as a Violation of Her Free Speech Rights

The web designer contends that any website she builds is part of a message and represents her speech. As such, her attorney, Kristen Waggoner, CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, said it was a free speech case because the state shouldn’t force her client to “create and promote messages that violate her beliefs.”

On the other side, Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson told justices the state law required businesses to serve everyone. He noted a store could sell only Jewish products but couldn’t deny them to people of other faiths. He stated if the High Court agreed with Smith, it could lead to racist, bigoted, or sexist claims.

In oral arguments on Monday, Smith’s attorney contended Colorado wanted to control her free speech on the topic of same-sex marriage. The attorney said if the government can prevent her from refusing work under her beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, it can prohibit any speech.

It’s the Message, Not the Person

Waggoner noted Smith does not discriminate against people based on their status. Instead, the attorney said the web designer declined work based on the message. She stated if the government can compel speech, it can eliminate anything it doesn’t agree with from public dialogue by anyone.

Colorado Attorney General Philip Weiser disagreed with Waggoner’s perspective. He argued outside of court that if the state loses, it will make it possible for any professional to refuse service based on who they are as individuals. He stated a ruling against the anti-discrimination law would “threaten the core of our civil rights laws.”

Who’s right and who’s wrong? The Supreme Court will decide. It could announce an opinion anytime from April to late June.

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