Lorie Smith, a Christian graphic artist in Colorado, filed a pre-enforcement challenge in 2016 to a law that would force her to provide custom services for homosexual “weddings.” She believes what the Bible teaches: that homosexuality is a sin, and marriage is a God-ordained union between one man and one woman.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which the U.S. Supreme Court found in violation of a Christian baker’s religious beliefs in 2018, interprets the state’s so-called anti-discrimination law as requiring business owners to use their artistic talents to create custom work they find objectionable. The law also bars business owners from stating the reason they declined to provide services if the reason is religious.
Smith lost in federal court and 2-1 before a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The dissenting Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich wrote that the Constitution “neither forces Ms. Smith to compromise her beliefs nor condones the government doing so. In fact, 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.” He added that “the majority holds that the more unique a product, the more aggressively the government may regulate access to it—and thus the less First Amendment protection it has. This is, in a word, unprecedented.”
Smith appealed to the Supreme Court, and that court agreed this week to hear her case. From her legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom:
For years, Colorado has relentlessly sought to target certain speakers, and other states have followed that example. As ADF explained in a brief asking the high court to accept Smith’s case, “The First Amendment’s promises of free speech and religious liberty are bedrock principles. Yet over the past decade, those promises have been shattered: Elane Photography and Sweet Cakes are out of business, Barronelle Stutzman was forced to retire, Emilee Carpenter is risking jail, Bob Updegrove and Chelsey Nelson are in harm’s way, and Jack Phillips is still in court, pursued by a private enforcer who wants to finish the job. This Court must act now or officials with enforcement power over nearly half the country’s citizens will continue compelling artists to speak against their consciences while silencing them from explaining their beliefs.”
Sixteen states, 45 members of Congress, and numerous legal scholars, economists, publishers, media organizations, and others filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Smith’s petition.
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