Both sides see high stakes in Religious Liberty Supreme Court case
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is being warned about the potentially dire consequences of a case next week involving a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for same-sex couples.
Rule against her and the justices will force artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — to do work that is against their faith, conservative groups say.
Rule for the designer and the justices will expose not only same-sex couples to discrimination, liberal groups claim.
Both sides have described for the court what lawyers sometimes call “a parade of horribles” that could result if the ruling doesn’t go their way.
The case marks the second time in five years that the Supreme Court has confronted the issue of a business owner who says their religion prevents them from creating works for a homosexual wedding. This time, most experts expect that the court now dominated 6-3 by conservatives and particularly sympathetic to religious plaintiffs will side with Lorie Smith, the Denver-area designer in the case.
Smith is represented by attorneys at the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom. “I think it’s disingenuous and false to say that a win for Lorie in this case would take us back to those times where people … were denied access to essential goods and services based on who they were,” said ADF attorney Kellie Fiedorek, adding, “A win for Lorie here would never permit such conduct, like some of the hypotheticals that they’re raising.”
Smith’s case follows that of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who objected to creating a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. The couple sued, but the case ended with a limited decision. Phillips’ lawyer, Kristen Waggoner, is back before the high court Monday arguing for Smith.
Smith wants to begin offering wedding websites, but she says her Christian faith prevents her from creating websites celebrating same-sex marriages. That could get her in trouble with state law. Colorado, like most other states, has a public accommodation law that says if Smith offers wedding websites to the public, she must provide them to all customers. Businesses that violate the law can be fined, among other things.
Smith, for her part, says Colorado’s law violates the Constitution’s First Amendment by forcing her to express a message with which she disagrees.
Among Smith’s other opponents are the Biden administration and 20 mostly Democratic-leaning states including California, New York and Pennsylvania. The states told the court in one of 75 legal briefs filed by outside groups in the case that accepting Smith’s arguments would allow for widespread discrimination.
Smith’s supporters, among them 20 mostly Republican-leaning states, say ruling against her has negative consequences, too. A lawyer for the CatholicVote.org education fund told the court that if the lower court ruling stands and Smith loses, “a Jewish choreographer will have to stage a dramatic Easter performance, a Catholic singer will be required to perform at a marriage of two divorcees, and a Muslim who operates an advertising agency will be unable to refuse to create a campaign for a liquor company.”