DENVER — Lawyers representing a Colorado web designer who was slapped with a gag order in July that forced her to celebrate causes she believes are wrong filed a petition to appeal the case in the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday.
Lorie Smith, the founder of 303 Creative, lost a 2-1 ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit which mandated that she create custom graphics and websites for LGBT customers despite messages that contradict her religious convictions.
“This case involves quintessential free speech and artistic freedom, which the 10th Circuit astonishingly and dangerously cast aside here,” Kristen Waggoner, the general counsel for the First Amendment legal foundation Alliance Defending Freedom, which has taken on Smith’s case, said in a press call with reporters. “The government shouldn’t weaponize the law to force a web designer to speak messages that violate her beliefs.”
The initial case was launched as a pre-enforcement challenge to Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), the same law weaponized to go after a Denver-area cake artist for refusal to design a custom cake for a same-sex wedding and, more recently, a gender transition. The law prohibits any business that offers public services from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Smith challenged the law after she received an inquiry for a website for a same-sex wedding but did not respond to the order to avoid violating CADA.
The 10th Circuit rejected Smith’s case against CADA, writing that the law “permissibly compels [Lorie Smith’s] speech,” and concluded, “a faith that enriches society in one way might also damage society in [an]other.” Smith was also reprimanded with a gag order that keeps her from placing a note on her page about what sites would be consistent with her convictions.
“I have clients ranging from individuals to small business owners to nonprofit agencies. I have served and continue to serve all people, including those who identify LGBT,” Smith explained to reporters on Friday. “I simply object to being forced to pour my heart, my imagination, and talents into messages that violate my conscience.”
Waggoner said the legal team was optimistic that the Supreme Court would take up Smith’s case, arguing that the 10th Circuit’s decision was broad.
“I would be surprised if not all nine justice are deeply concerned about it,” said Waggoner, who went on to highlight the court’s prior rulings in defense of Masterpiece Cake Shop owner Jack Phillips.
In 2012, Phillips began to make headlines when he declined a request from a gay couple to design their custom wedding cake. At the time, Phillips offered a wide variety of other products, but rather than pick from the assorted goods or seek another cake shop, the engaged couple filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The case cloaked in the moral righteousness of LGBT rights provoked harassment campaigns and death threats against Phillips, along with nearly 40 percent of his income and a decade of litigation as new complaints were filed inspired by the 2012 lawsuit.
In June, Phillips was fined $500 for refusal to design a cake celebrating gender dysphoria.