A Colorado web designer should not have to create wedding websites for same-sex couples because it would amount to forced speech that violates her religious beliefs, a lawyer told an appeals court Monday.
Kristen Waggoner, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, told a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver that the issue for designer Lorie Smith, who is a Christian, is the message and not the customer.
“No one should be forced to express a message that violates their convictions,” Waggoner said during the hearing.
She is trying to revive a lawsuit challenging the state’s anti-discrimination law, which her group also targeted on behalf of Colorado baker Jack Phillips in a case decided in 2018 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court decided the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with anti-religious bias against Phillips after he refused to bake a cake for two men who were getting married.
But it did not rule on the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to LGBT people.
On Monday, Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich asked what Smith would do if she was approached by a straight wedding planner asking her to create four heterosexual wedding sites and one for a same-sex wedding. Waggoner said Smith would not take that job.
Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson said her argument would mean she would refuse to create a website for a hypothetical same-sex couple but agree to make the same one for a heterosexual couple.
He said that would be discrimination under Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In the case of Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Olson said the Supreme Court could not agree on whether cakes are a form of expression.
However, a divided three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled in favor of two Christian filmmakers who said they should not have to make videos celebrating same-sex marriage under Minnesota’s anti-discrimination law because the videos are a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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