A federal judge has ruled that it’s against the law for a Colorado woman to advertise that her business does not make custom websites for gay weddings.
Lori Smith, the Christian owner of Creative 3030, earlier this year sued Colorado Human Rights Commission officials in U.S. District Court in Colorado. She asked the court to affirm that she has a constitutional right to state on her company’s website that she does not service same-sex weddings.
Citing her belief in “biblical marriage,” Smith also wanted the court to give her permission to actually refuse to provide the service.
“I am a Christian, and I believe that God gave me creative gifts. I strive every day to honor God by the way I operate my business. ” Smith wrote in an op-ed Sunday for the Christian news site Disrn. “While I will serve anyone, I am always careful to avoid communicating ideas or messages, or promote events, products, services, or organizations, that are inconsistent with my religious beliefs.”
Lori Smith loses
However, on Oct. 26, Chief Judge Marcia Krieger threw out Smith’s case. She decided that Smith lacked the standing to challenge Colorado’s Accommodations Clause, which “prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods and services on various bases, including on the basis of sexual orientation,” as she put it.
Krieger said the same law makes it illegal for a person to even say they will refuse service to an LGBT customer. She therefore felt no need to consider Smith’s claim against the state’s Communications Clause, which “prohibits the publication of any communication that advises that goods or services will be refused to patrons on the basis of, among other things, sexual orientation.”
Smith has said that she preemptively brought the lawsuit because of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s prosecution of Christian baker Jack Phillips for declining to make custom weddings cakes for same-sex marriages.
“I’ve seen how Colorado treated Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner Jack Phillips for years,” Smith wrote in Disrn. “Yet … the state continues to target religious believers like me just because it disagrees with us.”
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips on the narrow grounds that the commission showed “clear and impermissible hostility” toward his religious beliefs about marriage.
According to Kreiger, though, the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision does not apply to Smith’s case because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission has yet to take any action against her business, Creative 303.
A bigger culture war
Kreiger’s ruling was a blow not just to Smith but to the many U.S. Christians who feel increasingly under siege from secular culture.
“I’m asking the court to protect the artistic freedom most Americans take for granted,” Smith said in her op-ed.
Smith’s lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal nonprofit that also represented Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, have said they will appeal to the 10 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In August, the Alliance Defending Freedom won a similar appeal in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Overruling a lower court, a divided three-judge panel decided that the Minnesota Human Rights Act could not require Christian couple and business partners Carl and Angel Larsen to make videos for gay weddings.
It was the first time a federal court had ruled that religious business owners can invoke free speech rights to deny service for a same-sex ceremonies.
“I want to be able to tell stories that are consistent with the mission of our business,” Carl Larsen said in a 2017 video produced by the Alliance Defending Freedom. “I want to tell marriage stories. I want to tell stories about the glory of God in marriage because I want to tell that are gonna matter for eternity.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom declined Pluralist’s request to interview its lawyers and Smith.