Courts LGBT Rights LGBTQ

U.S. Court of Appeals Rules Against Web Designer Seeking License to Discriminate Against LGBTQ+ Couples

On Monday, the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals maintained a lower court’s decision to reject a Colorado web designer’s request to discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples.

Lorie Smith, the owner of the web design business 303 Creative LLC, challenged the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) by suing to request that her business be allowed to deny LGBTQ+ couples wedding website design services. In addition, Smith wanted to add a statement to 303 Collective’s website describing her anti-LGBTQ+ policy. She argued that to offer web design services to same-sex couples would go against her religious beliefs.

The U.S. Court of Appeals voted 2-1 against Smith, ruling that she did not have the right to be exempt from CADA and refuse service to same-sex couples.

The court wrote in the majority opinion that “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.”

Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ+ rights organization, filed an amicus brief in the case to defend CADA and celebrated the court’s decision.

“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,” Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative anti-LGBTQ+ legal organization, represented Smith in the case. The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified ADF as a hate group. ADF has said they will be appealing the Tenth Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court.

“Make no mistake, this was another attempt by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to chip away at hard-won civil rights secured for LGBT people and their families,” Pizer said. “But the appellate court today saw through ADF’s transparent and continuing effort to secure a ‘free to discriminate’ card to exempt 303 Creative from the laws all other Colorado businesses are expected to follow.”

“This really isn’t about cakes or websites or flowers. It’s about protecting LBGTQ 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.”

Sources: Lambda Legal 7/26/21; Colorado Public Radio 7/27/21; The Colorado Sun 7/27/21

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