A U.S. appeals court has ruled against a web designer who didn’t want to create wedding websites for same-sex couples and sued to challenge Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, another twist in a series of court rulings nationwide about whether businesses denying services to LGBTQ people amounts to bias or freedom of speech.
A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Monday denied Lorie Smith’s attempt to overturn a lower court ruling throwing out her legal challenge.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Smith, argued that the law forced her to violate her Christian beliefs.
In the 2-1 ruling, the panel said Colorado had a compelling interest in protecting the “dignity interests” of members of marginalized groups through its law.
The anti-discrimination law is the same one at issue in the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips that was 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 LGBTQ people.
Gay activists are deliberately targeting small businesses like this in an attempt to force the issue.
The Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom also represented Phillips. Founded in 1994 by Christian leaders concerned about religious freedom, the group said it would appeal Monday’s ruling.
“The government should never force creative professionals to promote a message or cause with which they disagree. That is quintessential free speech and artistic freedom,” the group’s senior counsel, John Bursch, said in a statement.
Lambda Legal, a group that fights for the civil rights of LGBTQ people, had submitted a brief supporting the Colorado law.
“This really isn’t about cake or websites or flowers,” Lambda Legal senior counsel Jennifer C. Pizer said in a statement. “It’s about protecting LGBTQ people and their families from being subjected to slammed doors, service refusals and public humiliation in countless places — from fertility clinics to funeral homes and everywhere in between.”