Christian Web Designer Who Refuses To Create Same-Sex Wedding Websites Loses Appeal Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has ruled against a Christian web designer who rejected the provision of her services for same-sex marriages.

Image: Courtesy of ADF Legal

A three-judge panel ruled that Lorie Smith and her web design company, 303 Creative, must create websites for LGBTQ couples since they provide services for traditional weddings. 

According to her legal representative, the law forced Smith to violate her Christian beliefs, the Alliance Defending Freedom. A pre-enforcement legal challenge in 2016 was filed to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which argued that the law forced her to offer website design services that are contrary to her religious beliefs and are unconstitutional. 

The panel made a 2-1 decision. The panel further explained a compelling interest in protecting the “dignity interests” of marginalized group members through its law. 

The case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips had the same issue with the anti-discrimination law that was ruled in 2018 by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court ruled that Phillips was ruled with anti-religious bias by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when the baker refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple who planned to get married. However, a ruling was not included whether an establishment can invoke religious objections to provide services to same-sex partners. 

Circuit Judge Mary Beck Briscoe authored the majority opinion. The court ruled that there is a possibility that 303 Creative could be prosecuted under CADA if it will not create websites that celebrate same-sex weddings while providing such for opposite-sex weddings. 

Furthermore, Judge Mary Beck Briscoe wrote in Monday’s majority opinion that “we must also consider the grave harms caused when public accommodations discriminate based on race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. Combatting such discrimination is, like individual autonomy, ‘essential’ to our democratic ideals.”

Tenth Circuit Chief Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich authored a dissenting opinion. He wrote that “This case illustrates exactly why we have a First Amendment. Properly applied, the Constitution protects Ms. Smith from the government telling her what to say or do.”

“But the majority takes the remarkable — and novel — stance that the government may force Ms. Smith to produce messages that violate her conscience,” wrote Tymkovich.

“In doing so, the majority concludes not only that Colorado has a compelling interest in forcing Ms. Smith to speak a government-approved message against her religious beliefs, but also that its public-accommodation law is the least restrictive means of accomplishing this goal. No case has ever gone so far.”

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