LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) — Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson has joined a coalition of 19 other conservative states in arguing that a Colorado website designer, because of her religious beliefs, shouldn’t be legally required to design websites for same-sex weddings.
The case of Lorie Smith, who owns 303 Creative, deals with a free speech question that wasn’t answered in 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided another Colorado case, involving a cake shop.
Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits a public business from refusing to provide services to customers based on their identity, which includes sexual orientation.
The Supreme Court, in its ruling in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case, didn’t answer the main question raised: What has more legal importance, a business’s freedom to choose its customers or the government’s interest in stopping discrimination based on sexual orientation?
Legal observers see the 303 Creative appeal as offering the Supreme Court — which is now more conservative than when the Masterpiece Cake Shop case was heard — an opportunity to make a ruling that would have major implications for federal, state and local civil rights laws.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that if Smith, the sole employee of 303 Creative, designs websites for opposite-sex weddings, she must also legally do so for same-sex weddings. The court reasoned that Colorado had a compelling interest in ensuring “equal access to publicly available goods and services.”
Smith’s appeal argues that Colorado law violates her First Amendment rights of free speech.
Peterson, in a “friend of the court” amicus brief, argues that because Smith “speaks” through her custom design work, Colorado cannot force her to address the topic of same-sex marriage.
The other states besides Nebraska in the coalition are:
Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.
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