Supreme Court to decide if businesses can refuse service to gay customers

This case concerns a Colorado website designer, who refuses to provide services for gay weddings.

Supreme Court to decide if businesses can refuse service to gay customers

Tuesday's announcement by the Supreme Court stated that it will rule on whether businesses with religious objections may refuse to offer their services for gay weddings. This question has been a constant dodger since 2015's landmark gay marriage ruling.

Lorie Smith, a Colorado website designer wanted to expand her business so she could serve married couples. She posted a statement on her website stating that she wouldn't offer her services for gay weddings because of her religious beliefs.

A federal appeals court found her refusal to state her feelings and her proposal would be in violation of Colorado's anti-discrimination laws.

The Supreme Court issued a short order stating that it would review the case and decide "if applying a public accommodation law to compel an art director to speak or remain silent violates the Free Speech Clause (First Amendment)."

The court will hear the case during its next term which starts in October.

Smith's lawyers urged the court to address the issue. They said that the Colorado law "compels speech on the basis of viewpoint and creates an pro-LGBT Gerrymander by requiring religious musicians to celebrate same-sex marital, while other artists can decline messages such as 'God Is Dead'."

This case is unique because it doesn't involve any lawsuits filed by customers who were denied service. It is a dispute between Smith and the state. Smith applied for an exemption from the law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Colorado asked the court to not hear the case.

"The record does not contain any evidence that anyone asked the company for a website to be created for a same-sex marriage, that Colorado has threatened enforcement or that any future website would transmit a message that would have been attributed to them," the lawyers stated in their legal filings.

The state law regulates commercial services and doesn't discriminate on religious grounds. The state also stated that even if a company offers a service with an expressive element, customers assume that the message is representative of their views and not that of the business.

In the past, the Supreme Court refused to address similar cases involving Colorado wedding photographers, florists and bakers. In those cases, one question was raised: Was it purely expressive to arrange flowers or just a way of offering a product or service?

The court declined to address Smith's separate question about whether Smith's state actions violated her religious freedom. The case is now ready for the next term. It asks: Is there an exception to laws that prevent discrimination from being free speech?


 

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