LGBTQ+ rights at risk as US Supreme Court hears case from anti-queer business owner

The case has led people to fear that LGBTQ+ and other minority communities are at risk of no longer being protected under discrimination laws.

US Supreme Court Building and Lorie Smith opposer to LGBTQ+ marriage side by side
Image: Joe Ravi via Wikimedia Commons / @ryanscarola via Twitter

Colorado woman Lorie Smith, the owner of 303 Creative, has brought a case forward to the Supreme Court as she refuses, as a web designer, to build websites that would promote same-sex marriages. Smith has claimed religious freedom against the current discrimination laws, leading people to believe that the eventual ruling could have far-reaching consequences for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. 

Colorado law has protections in place, making it illegal for businesses to discriminate based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Smith argues that her case, 303 Creative LLC v Elenis, is more compelling than most other Christian businesses because she would have to post text to the internet, meaning Colorado’s anti-discrimination law would be compelling speech, contradicting the first amendment. Smith insists that the law infringes upon her freedom of speech as it would mean she would have to promote something she doesn’t believe in, this has led her to put off starting her business for fear of violating state law. 

The conservative US Supreme Court Judges seemed to take a sympathetic approach towards the Christian web designer as they heard arguments about whether Smith could exercise her freedom of speech to deny same-sex couples. Justice Brett Kavanagh went on record to support Smith, asserting that if she lost her case, speech writers could be forced to write speeches they do not agree with. 

There is a worry that the 6-3 republican majority within the Supreme Court could be using cases, such as this one, to further their own political agenda. The fear seems even more founded when we look back to June when the Court overturned monumental abortion protection Roe v Wade, leaving behind the fear that even settled cases that protect civil liberties are at risk. 

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that if the Court does side with Smith it would be the first time in history that the Supreme Court would permit a public business to “refuse to serve a customer based on race, sex, religion or sexual orientation”.

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