Designer Denied LGBTQ+ Couple’s Case and Heads to Supreme Court

Lorie Smith, a Denver-based designer, said creating wedding websites and designs for same-sex couples goes against her religious beliefs.

DENVER — A Denver-based web and graphics designer will take her case to the Supreme Court To research after five years of ongoing legal proceedings.

303 Creative owner Lorie Smith is based in Denver. She creates websites and other graphic works. Smith began legal action about five years ago for what she considers a violation of her religious beliefs.

Because her art form is a form of expression, she asks that she be given the choice not to do any art, graphics, or design that conveys a message that she doesn’t agree with. She also wants to include a notice on her website to let potential customers know. In part, its website already includes a similar notice.

Her website reads on her “About” page, “As a Christian who believes that God has given me the creative gifts that are expressed through this business, I have always strived to honor him in the way My main goal is to design and create expressive content – script, graphics, websites and other creative content – to convey the most compelling and effective message possible to promote the goals, objectives, services , products, events, causes or values ​​of my client I am selective about the messages I create or promote – although I serve anyone, I am always careful to avoid communicating ideas or messages, or promote events, products, services or organizations, that are inconsistent with my religious beliefs.”

Last week, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear his case, 303 Creative v. Elenis. The main issue his lawyers will argue is that this case is specifically about free speech.

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The case differs from that Masterpiece Cakeshop c. Colorado Civil Rights Commission because this case was about the freedom to practice one’s religion. Although the lawyers also incorporated arguments related to freedom of expression, the Supreme Court justices did not issue a clear decision regarding this specific element. This left an option open for Smith to take his case to court.

“It’s deeply personal for me to figure out which posts I really want to invest my time and talents in promoting,” Smith said. “It is imperative to me that the things I create with my custom graphics and websites honor and glorify God, and while I am happy to serve everyone and have served everyone, including those who identify as LGBT, there are certain messages that I cannot promote.”

Smith is represented by the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). His lawyer said he is optimistic that the decision will be in their favour.

“We are confident that the court that the Supreme Court will recognize that these websites are Lori’s speech, and for this reason, she deserves First Amendment protection for them,” said Jake Warner, legal counsel for ADF.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit Court disagreed in 2021, saying it was a discriminatory action. Lawyers for the opposing party claim that the Court of Appeal was right to uphold their decision.

“Everyone in Colorado should be treated the same when they walk into a business to shop, whether it’s an online business or a brick-and-mortar business. It’s about that the commercial market is known to all. We shouldn’t have to fight over this yet, but apparently we do. The point is simple,” said Jenny Pizer, senior legal counsel at Lambda Legal.

Pizer filed briefing notes while the case was on appeal and will file additional briefing notes at the Supreme Court level.

“It is both frustrating and important from our perspective that there are organizations and individuals who are still so determined to be allowed to discriminate against members of our community when operating a business,” Pizer said. .

The case should be heard by the Supreme Court in the fall, starting in October.