Denver-area graphic artist and website designer Lorie Smith and Alliance Defending Freedom CEO, President, and General Counsel Kristen Waggoner, won an important case before the U.S. Supreme Court on Smith’s behalf earlier this month in 303 Creative v. Elenis.
The case concerns a Colorado law that requires Smith to communicate messages inconsistent with her beliefs. Even though Colorado officials have admitted that she works with people from all walks of life, including those who identify as LGBT, that she chooses what to create based on the message requested, and that every website she creates conveys a unique message, the state still says it can force her to speak messages about marriage that contradict her core beliefs.
“Free speech is for everyone. No one should be forced to say something they don’t believe,” said Waggoner. “And Lorie works with everyone. Whether she custom designs a website or graphic always turns on what the message is, not who is requesting it. Like most graphic designers, every word she writes, every graphic she designs, and every custom website she crafts expresses a unique message—one that must be consistent with her beliefs, areas of passion, and personal expertise. Americans should be free to express their ideas even if the government disagrees with them. That’s true for Lorie just as much as the LGBT graphic designer, which is why a win for Lorie is a win for all Americans.”
The Supreme Court agreed to take Smith’s case after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit issued a 2–1 decision holding that Colorado can compel her to create messages about marriage that violate her sincere beliefs even though her designs are, as the 10th Circuit admitted, “pure speech” and Colorado’s purpose is to completely “[e]liminate[e her] ideas” from the public dialogue. The dissent called such compulsion an “existential threat” to freedom and the majority’s opinion “staggering” and “unprecedented” because the “Constitution protects Ms. Smith from the government telling her what to say.”
According to Heritage Foundation, “Kristen Waggoner, general counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Smith, began her argument by stating that Smith isn’t just selling a service, but is conveying a message. And she stressed that time and again, the Supreme Court has refused to force someone to convey a message that runs contrary to his or her beliefs.
“Waggoner argued that the service at the center of the dispute is Smith’s design services, which are “pure speech,” and that Colorado’s law requires her to change that speech “in untenable ways.” She clarified that Smith’s websites are not “plug and play,” and due to their customization, it would require her to promote and announce a marriage that she believes to be false.”
“Colorado is trying to force me to create custom, unique artwork to promote artwork inconsistent with the core of my beliefs and who I am. No government officials should be able to do that to any of us,” CBN News reported.
CBN continued in detailing the account, “A gay couple walks in and says, ‘I’d like the standard website, everything standard, but I want something in addition to that, I want the homepage, the website, to say, God blesses this union,’ and Ms. Smith says this is a problem. I don’t know, I think that is kind of different,” said Kagan.
The Supreme Court sided with Lorie Smith. Smith does not have to promote a message that she believes is inconsistent with her religious beliefs.