The US Supreme Court dealt a major blow to LGBTQ+ rights by ruling that a Colorado wedding website designer can refuse to create work for members of the community if it conflicts with religious beliefs.
The decision was reached by a six to three vote of the conservative supermajority and opens the door for businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ+ people based on their sexuality.
The dissent from the three liberal justices, which was written by Sonia Sotomayor and joined by Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, described the ruling as a “licence to discriminate” that is “profoundly wrong”.
“Today is a sad day in American constitutional law and in the lives of LGBT people,” Sotomayor wrote, adding that it could “mark gays and lesbians for second-class status” in society.
“In this way, the decision itself inflicts a kind of stigmatic harm…The opinion of the court is, quite literally, a notice that reads: ‘Some services may be denied to same-sex couples’,” she continued.
The majority opinion, which was written by Donald Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch, said that the First Amendment prohibited Colorado from “forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees”.
Lorie Smith, the owner of website design company 303 Creative, brought the case forward and argued that her websites should be classed as art and as such protected by her right to free speech.
Colorado said this was in violation of the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which forbids businesses from refusing services to customers based on their sexual orientation, race, or disability.
The case has been deemed unique as the ruling was based entirely on a hypothetical scenario about Smith not wishing to serve a gay man named Stewart, who wanted help designing invites, place name cards and various other things for his wedding to a man named Mike.
A report recently published by The New Republic, however, claimed that Sewart did not send this inquiry and is actually married to a woman.
President Joe Biden is “deeply concerned” by the ruling
Shortly after the ruling, President Joe Biden issued a statement which stated that he is “deeply concerned” about the ramifications the ruling could have.
“In America, no person should face discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love,” he said.
“The Supreme Court’s disappointing decision in 303 Creative LLC v Elenis undermines that basic truth, and painfully it comes during Pride month when millions of Americans across the country join together to celebrate the contributions, resilience, and strength of the LGBTQI+ community.
“While the court’s decision only addresses expressive original designs, I’m deeply concerned that the decision could invite more discrimination against LGBTQI+ Americans.
“More broadly, today’s decision weakens long-standing laws that protect all Americans against discrimination in public accommodations – including people of colour, people with disabilities, people of faith, and women.”
Biden also promised that his government “will also work with states across the country to fight back against attempts to roll back civil rights protections that could follow this ruling.”