A Christian web designer has won her Supreme Court case against a state law which requires artists to convey any message that a customer requests.
In 2016, Lorie Smith filed a pre-enforcement action against Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act in anticipation of attempts to force her to use her artistic talents to promote same-sex marriage.
In a landmark decision last week, the court overturned a lower court ruling which upheld the state’s compelled speech law.
In the 6-3 majority opinion Justice Neil Gorsuch argued that Colorado sought to force Smith “to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance”.
He said, “as this Court has long held, the opportunity to think for ourselves and to express those thoughts freely is among our most cherished liberties and part of what keeps our Republic strong”.
Smith was supported by US-based religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom.
Its CEO and President, Kristen Waggoner, said: “Regardless of one’s beliefs, race, faith, or identity, no one should be punished by the government for saying what they believe.”
Waggoner added: “The government should no more censor Lorie for speaking consistent with her beliefs about marriage than it should punish an LGBT graphic designer for declining to criticise same-sex marriage.
“If we desire freedom for ourselves, we must defend it for others.”
The outcome was similar to the Ashers Baking Company case, where the UK Supreme Court ruled that the company was within its rights to decline to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage campaign slogan because it would amount to compelled speech.
Bad decision vacated
In light of last week’s ruling, the Supreme Court sent the case of Aaron and Melissa Klein back to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
The Kleins are embroiled in a long-running legal battle against the Oregon Bureau of Labor for declining to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Kelley Shackleford of First Liberty Institute, which is representing the Kleins, said: “It’s a win when the Supreme Court vacates a bad lower court decision like it did for Aaron and Melissa today, but the case is not over.
“The Kleins have been fighting for the First Amendment for over a decade and we will stand with them no matter how long it takes to get the victory they deserve.”