Written by Colin Sliven, The Associated Press
On Monday, an appeals court attorney said that a Colorado web designer should not be forced to create wedding sites for same-sex couples under the state’s anti-discrimination law because that might amount to forced speech that violates her religious beliefs.
Christine Wagner, a lawyer for the Freedom Defense Coalition, told a three-judge panel in the 10th Circuit of the Court of Appeals in Denver that the case of designer Lori Smith, who is Christian, is the message, not the customer.
“No one should be compelled to express a message that violates their convictions,” Wagoner said during the virtual hearing.
She’s trying to revive a lawsuit challenging her state 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 Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission acted with an anti-religious bias against Phillips after he refused to bake a cake for two men who were getting married. But he did not rule on the larger issue of whether a company could invoke religious objections to deny service to homosexuals.
On Monday, Chief Justice Timothy Timkovitch asked what Smith would do if a wedding planner contacted her directly and asked her to create four heterosexual wedding sites and one for a same-sex wedding. Wagoner said that Smith would not take the job.
Colorado Attorney General Eric Olson questioned whether Smith should be allowed to challenge the law because she hasn’t started filing wedding venues yet.
But if she did, he said her argument would mean that she would refuse to create a website for a virtual same-sex couple called Alex and Taylor, but both would agree to create the same site for a heterosexual couple with the same names. He said it would be discrimination under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In the case of Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Olson said the Supreme Court could not agree on whether the cakes were a form of expression. However, he said that self-determination about whether a company’s service lives up to speech is not a practical way to determine discrimination.
“The company cannot distinguish between those it serves on the basis of the protection category,” he said.
However, a split panel of three judges in the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals found last year in favor of two Christian filmmakers who said they should not make videos celebrating same-sex marriage under the Minnesota Anti-Discrimination Act because videos are a form of speech that protects them. First amendment.
The court reinstated the lawsuit brought by Karl and Angel Larsen of the Telescope Media Group in Saint Cloud. They are also represented by the Scottsdale, Arizona Freedom Defense Alliance, which was found in 1994 by Christian leaders concerned with religious freedom.
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