WASHINGTON (HPD) — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case Monday of a Christian graphic designer who refuses to design websites for gay marriages, in the latest clash between gay rights and religious rights to reach the nation’s highest court. .
The designer and her supporters argue that a ruling to the contrary would force artists of all kinds — painters, photographers, writers, musicians — to produce works that go against their faith. Opponents of her argue that if she wins, large numbers of businesses will be able to discriminate against various sectors of the population such as blacks, Jews, Muslims, or mixed-race or religious couples.
The case comes as the Supreme Court has a majority of six conservative justices to three liberals, and has in recent cases sided with religious whistleblowers. It also arises at a time when Congress is finalizing the details of a law to protect the rights of homosexual marriages.
The law, which also protects interracial marriages, gained momentum after a court decision months ago to strike down the constitutional right to abortion. That decision raised fears that the court, now with its conservative majority, will also overturn its 2015 ruling that upheld the nationwide right of gay couples to marry. Judge Clarence Thomas explicitly said that decision must be re-evaluated.
The case before the Supreme Court now is that of Lorie Smith, a graphic designer from Colorado who wants to start offering wedding website designs. Smith maintains that her Christian faith prevents her from creating websites for gay couples. But refusing would be a violation of state law. Colorado, like most states, has a law that if Smith offers wedding websites, she must offer them all equally. Businesses that violate that law can be fined or subject to other penalties.
Five years ago, the Supreme Court heard a similar case, in which a Colorado pastry chef, Jack Phillips, refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The case, however, ended with a limited decision, allowing the issue to be returned to the highest court. Phillips’ attorney, Kristen Wagoner of Alliance Defending Freedom, now represents Smith.
Like Phillips, Smith says he has nothing against gay people. For example, she says, he would have no problem helping a gay person design graphics for an animal rescue center or an organization that helps disabled children. But, she says, she’s opposed to anything to do with same-sex marriage, just as he would be opposed to making designs that promote atheism, gambling or abortion.
Smith says the Colorado law violates his right to free speech. His opponents, including President Joe Biden’s administration and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, disagree.
Twenty mostly liberal states, including California and New York, support Colorado while another 20 mostly Republican states, including Arizona, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, back Smith.