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Supreme Court takes up case of web designer who won’t work with same-sex couples

Feb 22, 2022, 8:59 AM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:21 am

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FILE: The U.S. Supreme Court is shown in February 2009 (Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images)

(Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Originally Published: 22 FEB 22 10:16 ET

(CNN) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to take up the case of a graphic designer in Colorado who creates websites to celebrate weddings but does not want to work with same-sex couples out of religious objections.

The court’s decision means it will wade into another bitter fight next term pitting a business owner who refuses to serve same-sex couples against a state law that bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Four years ago, the court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. That ruling, however, was carefully tailored to the case at hand and was not a broad nationwide verdict on whether businesses could decline services to same-sex couples based on religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Earlier this term, a Washington state florist who refused to make an arrangement for a couple out of religious objections to same-sex marriage withdrew a pending petition before the court after announcing that she had settled her dispute.

The new case out of Colorado comes to the Supreme Court as the conservatives on the court have expanded religious liberty rights.

Lorie Smith, who runs a company called 303 Creative, seeks to expand her business into the area of weddings and has written a webpage explaining why she won’t create websites for same-sex couple. But under a Colorado public accommodations law, she says she cannot post the statement because the state considers it illegal.

Under Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, a company cannot publish any communication that indicates that a public accommodation service will be refused based on sexual orientation. Smith lost her case when a federal appeals court ruled against her — a decision her lawyers said amounted to the “extreme position that the government may compel an artist — any artist — to create expressive content, even if that content” violates the artist’s faith.

Colorado’s Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat, urged the justices to decline a review of the case, noting in part that Smith hadn’t yet officially submitted her proposal and that there was no “credible threat of enforcement” of its law.

“The Company has never offered wedding website services to any customer,” he said in court papers, and stressed that Colorado has not “challenged its business practices.”

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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Supreme Court takes up case of web designer who won’t work with same-sex couples