The United States Supreme Court delivered a ruling on Friday that allows certain businesses to refuse services for same-sex weddings, a decision viewed as a setback for LGBTQ rights in the country. The 6-3 ruling, led by the conservative-dominated Supreme Court, sided with web designer Lorie Smith, who sought an exemption from a Colorado law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and other factors.
Lorie Smith, an evangelical Christian who opposes same-sex marriage, filed a lawsuit in 2016 against Colorado’s civil rights commission and state officials, expressing concerns about potential penalties under the state’s public accommodations law for refusing to provide services for gay weddings, Al-Jazeera reported.
According to the report, Smith and her legal team argued that being compelled to offer her services for a same-sex wedding would require her to convey messages that contradict her Christian beliefs, thereby violating her right to free speech under the ‘First Amendment’ of the US Constitution.
Advocates Fear Discrimination Against LGBTQ Individuals
Several advocates have raised concerns that Smith’s position infringes upon the rights of LGBTQ individuals to access goods and services without facing discrimination, the report said.
In a dissenting opinion, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed concerns that the Supreme Court’s ruling grants businesses the constitutional right to refuse service to members of a protected class, marking the first time in history, it added.
Civil rights groups and legal scholars have cautioned against the potential ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision, fearing it could undermine laws designed to protect against various forms of discrimination.
It is to be noted that public accommodations laws, which prohibit discrimination in areas such as housing, hotels, retail businesses, restaurants, and educational institutions, exist in numerous US states.
Conservative Justice Supports Web Designer’s Claim
Writing on behalf of the Supreme Court majority, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch supported Smith’s position, asserting that Colorado’s attempt to compel speech she does not wish to provide infringes on her protected ‘First Amendment’ rights.
“The First Amendment envisions the United States as a diverse and multifaceted society where all individuals are free to think and express themselves as they wish, not as the government dictates,” Gorsuch said in the decision, according to the report.
Lorie Smith was represented by lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative religious rights group, the report said.
Government Support For Colorado
The Biden administration supported Colorado in the case, arguing that Smith’s request for an exemption was overly broad, as she sought the right to refuse to create any type of wedding website for same-sex couples, even basic ones with logistical information.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Smith’s case came just one day after another ruling that supported the ability of employees to seek religious accommodations at work, reviving a lawsuit filed by a former mail carrier who alleged discrimination by the Postal Service for refusing to work on Sundays. The Thursday ruling was unanimous, with all justices in agreement.