Supreme Court examines clash between religion and gay rights

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court heard the case Monday of a Christian artist who opposes the creation of wedding websites for gay couples, a dispute that is the latest clash between religion and gay rights to reach the highest court.

The say the designer and her supporters that a ruling against it would force artists – from painters and photographers to writers and musicians – to do work that goes against their faith. Her opponents, meanwhile, say that if she wins, a number of businesses will be able to discriminate by refusing to serve black customers, Jews or Muslims, interracial or interfaith couples or immigrants, among others.

The case comes as the court is dominated 6-3 by conservatives and after a series of cases in which justices have sided with religious plaintiffs. It also comes because across the street from the court are lawmakers in Congress finalizing a landmark bill protection of same-sex marriage.

The bill, which also protects interracial marriage, has steadily gained momentum since the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year to end constitutional protections for abortion. This decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade case raised questions about whether the court — now that it is more conservative — might also reverse its 2015 ruling declaring nationwide same-sex marriage law. justice Clarence Thomas specifically said that the decision should also be reviewed.

The case before the Supreme Court on Monday involves Laurie Smith, a graphic artist and website designer in Colorado who wants to start offering wedding websites. Smith says her Christian faith prevents her from creating websites celebrating same-sex marriage. But that could get her in trouble with state law. Colorado, like most other states, has a so-called public accommodation law that says if Smith offers wedding websites to the public, she must make them available to all customers. Businesses that violate the law can be fined, among other things.

Five years ago, the Supreme Court heard a different challenge involving the Colorado law and baker Jack Phillips, who objected to the design of a wedding cake for a gay couple. This case ended with limited resolution, however, and referred the matter for remand to the Supreme Court. Phillips’ attorney, Kristen Wagoner of Alliance Defending Freedom, is now representing Smith.

Like Phillips, Smith says her objection is not working with gay people. She says she would work with a gay client who needed help with graphics for an animal rescue shelter, for example, or to promote an organization serving children with disabilities. But she opposes creating messages in support of same-sex marriage, she says, just as she would not take a job that would require her to create content promoting atheism or gambling or supporting abortion.

Smith says the Colorado law violates her free speech rights. Her opponents, including the Biden administration and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, disagree.

Twenty predominantly liberal states, including California and New York, supported Colorado, while another 20 predominantly Republican states, including Arizona, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, supported Smith.

The case is 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, 21-476.


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