The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Dec. 5 in the case of a Christian website designer who is challenging a Colorado law that would force her to be willing to create custom websites for same-sex weddings if she designs them for weddings between one man and one woman.
Lorie Smith, owner of 303 Creative, argues that her constitutional right to free speech would be violated if she were compelled to create custom websites for same-sex weddings. Kristen Waggoner, CEO, president and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), presented the argument on behalf of Smith.
In a livestream just before the court session began, Kelly Fiedorek, ADF senior counsel and government affairs director, explained the case and Smith’s position:
“The question that’s before the court,” Fiedorek said, “is: Can the government force an artist, or really any American, to speak or to stay silent? And the answer is clearly no, it’s unconstitutional, and every American has that freedom to create and to speak and to imagine consistent with the very core of who they are.”
During oral arguments, the justices explored how to balance public accommodation laws with free speech protections, and what kinds of businesses produce “speech” in the constitutional sense. They posed a number of hypothetical situations to attorneys for both sides, trying to determine what the court’s eventual decision might mean for future scenarios that may arise.
Many of the hypothetical examples had to do with whether or not Smith’s attorneys thought it should be allowable for a business to refuse service to other protected classes, such as disabled persons or interracial couples. Waggoner explained that Lorie Smith willingly serves all persons, including LGBTQ clients, but she should not be compelled to create speech that conflicts with her religious views, such as promoting a same-sex wedding.
Following oral arguments, Lorie Smith addressed a crowd outside the Supreme Court building.
“The freedom I’m standing for is not just for me,” she said. “I’m standing for every one of us, each and every one of us. Whether you share my beliefs or whether you have different beliefs, I’m standing for every American and our children’s children to think and create consistently with the core of who they are.”
Waggoner then addressed those gathered: “Make no mistake: If the government has the power to compel Lorie Smith’s speech, if it can eliminate her views from the public dialogue, as the 10th Circuit found was the law’s purpose, it has the power to do that to any one of us….And, contrary to what Colorado argued today, public accommodation laws and the First Amendment can and do peacefully exist, and will continue to do so if Lorie wins. There is no reason for Colorado to crush beliefs when [other] states across this country respect free speech and ensure everyone has access to essential goods and services.”
The court’s decision is expected by the end of its current term, which is typically the end of June.
Above: Attorney Kristen Waggoner, left, and Lorie Smith, far right, at the Supreme Court.