Lorie Smith, a Colorado graphic designer at the center of a Supreme Court case examining her refusal to create wedding websites for same-sex couples, said the ruling will determine whether she and other service providers can exercise their First Amendment rights in the workplace.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in the high-profile case involving Smith, the religious Christian owner of 303 Creative, who is challenging her state’s anti-discrimination laws over her refusal to create websites for same-sex weddings, citing her religious beliefs.
In an interview on “The Story” Monday, Smith said that she wants to use her creative expression to design websites for couples in a way that is consistent with her faith, but feels the state of Colorado is “compelling” her to communicate a message through her designs that promote same-sex marriage and violates “the core” of her religious beliefs.
“I want to create unique one-of-a-kind expression and artwork and I want to design websites – wedding websites – specifically that are consistent with my faith,” Smith told Fox News. “But the state of Colorado is compelling and controlling my speech, chilling it and forcing me to communicate a message through my custom unique artwork. That violates the core of who I am and at the core of this case is the right for all to speak freely and that protects not only myself, protects the LGBT web designer that should not be forced to create custom artwork that opposes same-sex marriage. The right to speak freely is guaranteed to each and every one of us and a win for me is a win for everybody.”
The case is structured around a private company’s refusal to create any website for a same-sex wedding, despite the state’s Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
“At the core of this case is the right for everyone to speak consistent[ly] with what they believe, whether their views on marriage or other topics are similar to mine or perhaps different,” Smith said. “Nobody should be punished for communicating and speaking and creating custom artwork that goes along the lines of what they believe.”
Smith said she will work with anyone, including the LGBTQ community, but not for the specific purpose of gay weddingsadding that she makes creative decisions based on message and content, and that she serves all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
“I serve people from all different walks of life and I do have clients who identify as LGBT[Q]. I cannot create every message requested of me,” she said. “There are some messages I can’t create no matter who requests them,” she added.
Smith and her legal team have argued that her work constitutes speech and that Colorado’s law compelling her to create messaging that is in conflict with her values is a violation of her First Amendment rights.
“The court has never compelled someone to create messages, meaning using their heart, their head and their hand to imagine and design art and use words and texts,” Smith’s attorney, Kristen Wagoner of Alliance Defending Freedom, said in the Fox News interview.
“The court has never compelled that kind of speech even at the height of the civil rights era, it didn’t compel speech. Because that’s not the role of the government to tell Americans what is worthy of celebration….it’s disingenuous to suggest that this is about service. It’s about speech.”
“It’s not the role of the government to mandate what is true and what is not. That’s the role of the citizen, to be able to decide what to express. No one should be forced to express a message that violates their convictions and in Colorado, they’re doing it upon threat of fines,” Waggoner added, noting that “some jurisdictions impose jail time.”
Some critics have argued that because Smith’s content is unique, she’s creating a monopoly, and thereby restricting same-sex couples seeking a wedding website access to that monopoly.
Waggoner rejected the argument, telling host Martha MacCallum that such a claim, if legitimized, “would turn the First Amendment on its head.”
“That would mean every single one of us could be forced to express the government’s message,” she said. “What is important here is that Colorado even agrees that Mrs. Smith serves all people. She does serve everyone. She has clients who identify as LGBT[Q] and she serves them. As the court many, many times today mentioned, her decisions turn on what the message is and not who the person is,” Waggoner explained.
“We all want that freedom,” she continued. “Whether we’re a Democrat publicist and don’t want to write for a Republican or a pro-abortion photographer and don’t want to have to film or photograph a pro-life rally.”