On July 26th, the U.S. Court of Appeals held the lower court’s decision to deny a web designer’s petition to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado. There have been many other court rulings in the United States deciding if a business that denies service to LGBTQ+ people is considered prejudice or exercising their right to religious freedom.
The owner of a web designing business, Lorie Smith, contested the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) by filing suit, alleging that it is her right to deny LGBTQ+ couples her services of designing a wedding website for them. She pushed it even further by claiming that she has the right to publicly post her anti-gay statement on her own company’s website.
Lorie Smith’s website and graphic design company is 303 Creative LLC. She stated that she is “willing to work with all people regardless of sexual orientation,” but she adds that her religious beliefs compel her to exclude anything to do with same-sex weddings.
Denver’s Court of Appeals rejected Smith’s request for a pre-enforcement ruling allowing her to provide services that are dependent on a client’s identity as she prepares to broaden her business by offering websites announcing nuptial celebrations. The 2-1 ruling by the three-judge panel advised that the state of Colorado, through its laws, has a compulsory duty to protect the “dignity interests” of marginalized groups.
“Colorado has a compelling interest in protecting both the dignity interests of members of marginalized groups and their material interests in accessing the commercial marketplace,” wrote the two justices with the majority opinion.
They concluded that, even though diversity in religious faith is useful to society, the minority views of same-sex marriage requires protection. “Yet a faith that enriches society in one way might also damage society in other, particularly when that faith would exclude others from unique goods or services. In short, Appellants’ Free Speech and Free Exercise rights are, of course, compelling. But so too is Colorado’s interest in protecting its citizens from the harms of discrimination.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm exclusively dedicated to legal cases involving religious freedom arguments, contends that Smith’s christian beliefs would be violated if her business is forced to comply with existing anti-discrimination laws. They sued the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the Attorney General to pursue an admonition to block enforcement of the CADA against Smith’s 303 Creative LLC.
Lamba Legal is an entity that supports the LGBTQ+ community and their civil rights. Jennifer C. Pizer, senior counsel at Lamba Legal, proffered a written document supporting CADA.
Pizer stated, “This is a tremendous ruling that properly situates our cherished freedoms of speech and religion among the important rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, while also understanding that the state of Colorado has a compelling interest and responsibility to end discrimination in the commercial sphere.
“As we explained in our friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission,this really isn’t about cake or websites or flowers.
“It’s about protecting LGBT+ people and their families from being subjected to slammed doors, service refusals, and public humiliation in countless places – from fertility clinics to funeral homes, and everywhere in between.”