How the Supreme Court’s 303 Creative Ruling Threatens LGBTQ+ Rights and Equality
On June 30, 2023, the Supreme Court delivered a disappointing decision in the case of 303 Creative LLC v. Alanis, a case that pitted a Christian web designer against a Colorado law that prohibits employment in public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Prohibits discrimination. The court ruled 6-3 that web designer Laurie Smith has a First Amendment right to refuse to build a wedding website for LGBTQ+ couples because doing so would violate her religious beliefs and freedom of expression.
The ruling is a major blow to LGBTQ+ rights and equality and opens the door to widespread discrimination against marginalized communities. It also undermines the important role of public accommodation laws in ensuring equal access and respect for all Americans, regardless of who they are or who they love.
What was the case about?
The case began in 2016, when Smith, who owns a graphic design firm called 303 Creative, sued Colorado to challenge its anti-discrimination law. Smith claimed that she wanted to expand her business by including matrimony websites, but that she could not do so without violating her religious beliefs that marriage is only between one man and one woman. She argued that the law violated her First Amendment rights by forcing her to create expressive designs that convey messages with which she disagrees.
Colorado argued that the law did not oblige Smith to speak any message, but only required it to treat all customers equally and not discriminate based on protected characteristics. Colorado also argued that the law serves a vital interest in preventing harm and stigma to LGBTQ+ people, who have suffered a long history of discrimination and exclusion in public life.
The case was similar to the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, in which the Supreme Court sided with a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on religious grounds. However, in that case, the court did not address the broad question of whether businesses could claim First Amendment exemption from anti-discrimination laws, but instead focused on the specific facts of the case and found that the Colorado Commission was hostile to it. Was visible Baker’s religious beliefs.
What was the verdict given by the court?
The Supreme Court agreed to hear Smith’s case in February 2022, and oral arguments in December 2022. On June 30, 2023, the court issued its opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, and also joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas. , Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
The court held that “the First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing a website designer to create an expressive design conveying a message with which the designer disagrees.” The court argued that Smith’s designs are a form of speech or expression entitled to constitutional protection and that Colorado’s law places content-based restrictions on his speech, requiring him to create designs that celebrate same-sex marriage. it occurs. The court also rejected Colorado’s argument that its law serves a compelling interest in preventing discrimination and harm against LGBTQ+ people, saying that “the state has not shown that Smith is entitled to a same-sex marriage.” How the need to create a matrimony website for couples would drive her interest in ensuring equal access” to goods and services.”
The court recognized that public accommodation laws play an important role in protecting civil rights, but said that “no public accommodation law is immune from the demands of the Constitution.” The court limited its ruling to expressive original designs, such as matrimony websites, and did not address other types of goods or services that do not involve speech or expression.
Why is this decision harmful?
This decision is harmful for several reasons. First, it allows businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ customers based on their religious beliefs, which is contrary to the principle of equal treatment under the law. Second, it creates a loophole for businesses to claim First Amendment exemption from anti-discrimination laws whenever they provide expressive goods or services such as photography, videography, floristry, catering, invitations, or even hairstyling. provide. Third, it undermines the dignity and respect of LGBTQ+ people, who have the right to participate fully and equally in public life without being rejected or stigmatized because of who they are or who they love.
The decision also sets a dangerous precedent for other marginalized groups who may face discrimination based on sincere religious beliefs. For example, some businesses may refuse service to women, people of color, people with disabilities, people of faith, or immigrants based on their interpretation of their religion. This would destroy the protections of public housing laws that have been instrumental in advancing civil rights and social justice for all Americans.
What can we do?
The verdict is disappointing and worrying, but it is not the end of our fight for LGBTQ+ rights and equality. We can still take action to protect our community and our values. Here are some things we can do:
– Support LGBTQ+ organizations and activists who are working tirelessly to defend our rights and challenge discrimination in the courts, legislatures, and on the streets. Some examples are Lambda Legal, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and The Trevor Project.
– Contact our elected representatives and urge them to pass the Equality Act, a federal bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, and other areas. The Equality Act would also strengthen public housing protections for all Americans, regardless of their race, gender, religion, disability, or national origin.
– Educate yourself and others about the issues and challenges facing LGBTQ+ people, and share your stories and experiences with compassion and empathy. We can speak out against hate and bigotry whenever we encounter it, and stand in solidarity with other oppressed groups who are fighting for their rights and dignity.
– Celebrate our LGBTQ+ community and culture, and honor the diversity and beauty of our identities and expressions. We can also support LGBTQ+ artists, businesses, and media who create expressive works that reflect our values and perspectives.
The Supreme Court ruling in 303 Creative is a setback, but not a defeat. We’ve come a long way in our fight for LGBTQ+ rights and equality, and we won’t give up. We will keep fighting for our freedom, our honor, and our love. We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re proud.