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Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Christian Web Designer Who Refused to Design Sites for Gay Weddings

Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Christian Web Designer Who Refused to Design Sites for Gay Weddings

“The framers designed the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to protect the ‘freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think.'”

The Supreme Court today issued a landmark decision on the relationship between the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause, public-accommodation laws, and LGBT rights: 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. The parties called on the Court to decide “[w]hether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”

The Court held 6–3 that “[t]he First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees.”

Justice Gorsuch wrote the opinion of the Court, which the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and Barrett joined. Justice Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion, which Justices Kagan and Jackson joined.

Petitioners Lorie Smith and her company, 303 Creative LLC, challenged the application of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) against Smith, whose religious beliefs prohibit her from crafting some custom messages. Smith is a website designer who wants to expand her company’s offerings to include custom wedding websites.

While Smith and her company will serve any customer regardless of sexual orientation, she could not, consistent with her Christian faith, create a custom wedding website celebrating a same-sex wedding. Smith also wishes to post a notice that she will not create these custom websites for same-sex weddings.

Smith has refrained from providing custom websites for any weddings or posting the notice for fear of enforcement action under CADA.

Respondents include Director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division Aubrey Elenis. The Colorado Civil Rights Division is required to “receive, investigate, and make determinations on charges alleging unfair or discriminatory practices” under CADA, which bars discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation.

The opinion of the Court summarized its precedents on freedom of expression, deriving several principles applicable in 303 Creative:

[T]he First Amendment protects an individual’s right to speak his mind regardless of whether the government considers his speech sensible and well intentioned or deeply “misguided” and likely to cause “anguish” or “incalculable grief.” Generally, too, the government may not compel a person to speak its own preferred messages. (citations omitted)

Applying these principles, the Court found unconstitutional a law that would compel Smith’s speech. While the Court recognized the importance of public-accommodations laws for “eliminating discrimination,” it “recognized that no public accommodations law is immune from the demands of the Constitution. In particular, this Court has held, public accommodations statutes can sweep too broadly when deployed to compel speech.”

The Court rejected Colorado’s argument that the for-profit nature of Smith’s speech deprived her speech of much First Amendment protection: “[M]any of the world’s great works of literature and art were created with an expectation of compensation. And speakers do not shed their First Amendment protections by employing the corporate form to disseminate their speech.”

The Court heard a similar challenge to CADA in 2018: Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In Masterpiece, a Christian baker who designed custom wedding cakes refused to design wedding cakes for same-sex weddings.

The Court, however, did not rule on the First Amendment free speech issue as it did in 303 Creative, instead finding 7–2 that open hostility toward the baker’s religion during state administrative proceedings tainted those proceedings.

Legal Insurrection has extensively covered Masterpiece and its fallout. Legal Insurrection last reported that the baker lost his appeal challenging CADA as applied to his refusal to design a gender transition celebration cake.


The Court surveyed its precedent on compelled speech, public-accommodations laws, and ‘expressive association’

The Court cited West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, which invalidated a school’s policy requiring students “to salute the Nation’s flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.” Finding for the students, the Court in Barnette held “state authorities had ‘transcend[ed] constitutional limitations on their powers.'”

The Court then moved to a discussion of precedent governing the intersection of the First Amendment and public-accommodations laws.

The Court relied on its holding in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc. That case involved a veteran-organized “St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston [that] refused to include a group of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals in their event.” The excluded group challenged its exclusion, citing a Massachusetts’s public-accommodations law.

The Hurley Court, finding for the organizers, held “the parade was constitutionally protected speech and requiring the veterans to include voices they wished to exclude would impermissibly require them to ‘alter the expressive content of their parade.”

The Court rounded out its discussion of relevant First Amendment precedent with Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, which involved the Boy Scouts’ exclusion of a gay scoutmaster in violation of a New Jersey public-accommodations law.

The Dale Court found for the Boy Scouts even though their association with the scoutmaster “may not have implicated pure speech” because “the Boy Scouts ‘is an expressive association’ entitled to First Amendment protection.”

Smith’s wedding websites would be ‘pure speech’ and ‘her speech,’ which Colorado could not compel

Based on facts stipulated by Smith and Colorado, the Court found Smith’s services would be pure speech because “every website will be her ‘original, customized’ creation” and “communicate ideas—namely, to ‘celebrate and promote the couple’s wedding and unique love story’ and to ‘celebrat[e] and promot[e].'”

Because Smith would vet a “prospective project to determine whether it is one she is willing to endorse, ” the speech would also be her speech based on the stipulated facts. Colorado sought to compel this speech by forcing Smith to create websites with a message she found objectionable.

Applying HurleyDale, and Barnette, the Court found the compulsion of Smith’s speech unconstitutional, despite Colorado’s insistence the compulsion was necessary to protect gay and lesbian Coloradans:

Consider what a contrary approach would mean. Under Colorado’s logic, the government may compel anyone who speaks for pay on a given topic to accept all commissions on that same topic—no matter the underlying message—if the topic somehow implicates a customer’s statutorily protected trait.

Dissent: the Court is allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay and lesbian people

The dissent opened with a line from the Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop stating that a religious objection to gay marriage would “not allow business owners . . . to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.”

The dissent accused the majority of abandoning this principle in 303 Creative:

Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class. Specifically, the Court holds that the First Amendment exempts a website-design company from a state law that prohibits the company from denying wedding websites to same-sex couples if the company chooses to sell those websites to the public.

Gorsuch’s opinion pushes back on this, citing a stipulated fact: “[W]e do no such thing and Colorado itself has stipulated Ms. Smith will (as CADA requires) ‘work with all people regardless of . . . sexual orientation.'”


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Getting closer to first principles this week. No on AA using race as determining factor, no to a power grab by Sec ED and now a reinforcement of free speech, free expression with a no to govt mandated speech/expression.

    Indeed, lots of good news coming out of SCOTUS this week. It all puts a little spring in my step heading into the Independence Day holiday. I think I’ll go fire up my BBQ pit while I’m still allowed.

      WTPuck in reply to Paul. | June 30, 2023 at 12:02 pm

      “Allowed?” Just do it. Don’t ask permission.

      WTPuck in reply to Paul. | June 30, 2023 at 12:02 pm

      Also, what time is dinner?

        Paul in reply to WTPuck. | June 30, 2023 at 12:38 pm

        It actually won’t be served until Sunday afternoon. Sadly, I’m selling my BBQ pit with my old house (we’ve already moved out). So I’m borrowing a friend’s rig for our party this weekend and I just cleaned it and fired it up to get a feel for how she runs. He sure was smack-talking a lot last night when he dropped it off, so I’ve got to make sure this batch is top-top.

      4fun in reply to Paul. | June 30, 2023 at 10:39 pm

      Thank you President Trump.

    Whitewall in reply to CommoChief. | June 30, 2023 at 11:51 am

    Some day we might even get around to remembering the 9th and 10th Amendments and why they were written.

      Mim Moco in reply to Whitewall. | June 30, 2023 at 1:56 pm

      I’m looking forward to a good 3rd amendment fight 🤣😂🤣

      CommoChief in reply to Whitewall. | June 30, 2023 at 4:54 pm

      Given the trend line in shutting down overreach by federal agencies and reinvigorated 1st and 2nd Amendment we may yet get there. Not to forget the ruling this term on takings for the lady’s home equity by a county tax office.

      A case with good facts to contest and overturn the the Chevron doctrine (granting huge discretion and deference to agency) will be needed. Once that’s overturned and firm textual limits put in place the era of easy shenanigans by federal agencies will be over. Then the next stop is 9A, 10A and hopefully gutting Wickard.

2smartforlibs | June 30, 2023 at 11:14 am

Dozens of these cases have gone to court and they always end the same way. It has nothing at all to do with the left getting the cake candles, website, whatever it has everything to do with them taking your rights. At one time nearly every business you entered had a sign that said they had the right to refuse service.

    artichoke in reply to 2smartforlibs. | June 30, 2023 at 5:36 pm

    Yes and the left admits the strategy. They filed lawsuit after lawsuit against the Masterpiece Cakeshop guy, because they thought they could win. And generally they did win against him, but not this other person.

    BREAKING: Another huge FPC Law #2A win! Moments ago, the federal district court completely VACATED the ATF’s unconstitutional receiver rule! More to come! Support this case and Join FPC at and check out the case info at
    Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) July 1, 2023

Trump should have his Colorado campaign office approach the Agents for VERY liberal actors and request that they work for Union Scale on a campaign ad for him. Select from a list that have appeared in political ads and “donated” their time at Scale. (They take the tax deduction.)

When they refuse, file with Colorado for discrimination.

    Paul in reply to 1073. | June 30, 2023 at 11:26 am

    Agreed, conservatives need to get very aggressive with the lawfare tactic… the progs sure are. What seems to be missing on the conservative side is a filthy rich benefactor or two who will finance such operations.

      JR in reply to Paul. | June 30, 2023 at 2:31 pm

      How about Donald Trump?

      CommoChief in reply to Paul. | June 30, 2023 at 5:39 pm

      The States are stepping up their efforts. Lots of organizations exist that are opposing the leftists with lawfare tactics and routine challenges. Public Interest Legal Foundation is one. LI has launched the Equal Protection Project. There’s plenty of space for small donors to make a big impact, if people will open up their wallets and contribute v waiting / hoping for someone else to it for them.

      IMO, no one is coming to save us. We must be willing to save ourselves and to stop yearning for some white knight to ride in and do the heavy lifting for us. Sitting around and waiting for someone else to take action is how we got here in the first place. Decades of folks looking around for someone else to ‘do something’ hasn’t panned out at all.

        Paul in reply to CommoChief. | July 1, 2023 at 1:34 am

        Yes sir, agreed. I made a nice little contribution to the LI Foundation a couple of weeks ago,enough to make my wife raise an eyebrow.

The Gentle Grizzly | June 30, 2023 at 11:30 am

This homosexual man says, “Bravissimo!”

It points once again to the screwup in the civil rights act, which ought to have limited loss of freedom of association to monopoly markets.

Six to three is beginning to sound familiar.

So, does this settle the ongoing harassment of Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cake Shop, once and for all?

    henrybowman in reply to guyjones. | June 30, 2023 at 1:18 pm

    Yes, I am confused by this as well. If I read the article correctly, SCOTUS sent this case back on more or less a technicality and told Colorado to give him a do-over. They did and they screwed him again. And he never got to go back to SCOTUS on the principle of the case. Is that accurate?

The Supreme Court’s ruling in 303 Creativity, holding that the government can’t compel speech, can possibly be used to combat the practice at some public universities requiring job applicants to submit a DEI statement.

    RandomCrank in reply to Guahan. | June 30, 2023 at 4:35 pm

    Same for those stupid “land acknowledgements.”

    artichoke in reply to Guahan. | June 30, 2023 at 5:40 pm

    That seems a stretch. They can make it clear that you don’t get hired without it. But they won’t sue you for not completing the job application. It’s not compelled speech when you have the option not to apply for the job.

      CommoChief in reply to artichoke. | June 30, 2023 at 9:54 pm

      Perhaps not for failure to submit but for attempts to create the equivalent of a ‘test act’ for govt positions. Public institutions can’t demand an applicant conform to some partisan ideology to get hired or retained or be granted tenure. They will try for sure and have deep pockets to fight lawsuits but eventually they will lose.

      mailman in reply to artichoke. | July 1, 2023 at 5:20 pm

      Sure seems compelled speech when you have to answer in the right way to be considered for the role to begin with.

      I mean what you are saying is essentially it’s not discriminatory to exclude women from a job of they don’t apply in the first place because they have an option to not apply anyway.

It is one thing to discriminate against people. It is another thing to discriminate against ideas.

E Howard Hunt | June 30, 2023 at 2:30 pm

I understand that the three she-justices begin their dissent discussions screeching “Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.”

    You don’t have to be a biologist to understand they had already decided how they were going to vote before they heard the case.

    Justice is blind but those she-justices had both eyes open.

“[T]he First Amendment protects an individual’s right to speak his mind regardless of whether the government considers his speech sensible and well intentioned or deeply “misguided” and likely to cause “anguish” or “incalculable grief.” Generally, too, the government may not compel a person to speak its own preferred messages. (citations omitted)”

Now do hate speech laws and that proposed law in Michigan that criminalizes “mis-gendering” (i.e. not entertaining the delusions of men who think they are women)…..

The beyond hypocritical crybaby leftists of course have no issues with a restaurant/coffee shop/ any shop refusing to serve someone wearing a MAGA hat……that’s just fine with them. And they have zero issues with the intolerant little communists who infest academia at every level, going insane and committing violent acts should anyone dare come to the school and offer an opinion on anything, that differs from theirs….that’s fine also of course. But OMG, let someone say they do not want to bake a cake for your gay wedding and ………the chit hits the fan!!! What!!? You said no to me!!?? You leftist dipchits have pretty much worn out your welcome with the normal people…the vast majority of Americans are sick and tired of your insane BS.

    artichoke in reply to yerheinous. | June 30, 2023 at 6:55 pm

    According to her dissent, Sotomayor would answer that MAGA hat wearers are not a protected class, but the LGBTxyz are, and therefore the feelings of the latter matter more. This ruling is finally a decisive move away from that idea. We need not be subject to the tyranny of the feelings of the protected classes, any more than the feelings of the rest of us.

Gorsuch’s majority opinion is 26 pages. Sotomayor’s dissent is 38 pages. I have yet to read it, but I am expecting some sort of social justice litany.

    artichoke in reply to artichoke. | June 30, 2023 at 6:52 pm

    Now having read a bit of the dissent, it is a bit of a litany, but I can understand the anger. The anger is that the Overton window really is moving on these questions, a move I support.

    The law was too much protecting the feelings of the protected groups (“dignity”) at the expense of the constitutional rights of everyone else. It’s an important change. Perhaps a bit of “clearing out the kudzu” as Gorsuch wrote in his SFFA concurrence released yesterday.

      CommoChief in reply to artichoke. | July 1, 2023 at 11:57 am

      This is, IMO, the reason for the lefty outrage. SCOTUS plainly.stated no more, Orwellian ‘some pigs are MORE equal than others’. The equal protection of the 14th Amendment means actual equality not the last six decades of distorted equality (+) for some and equality (-) for others. People are always reluctant to give up privileges and resent not only that the special treatment is endorsed but that the special unearned treatment has been pointed out very publicly as bad.

Compelled speech includes “preferred pronouns”. You can’t be forced to use them.

BierceAmbrose | July 1, 2023 at 9:28 pm

I reserve the right to decline to work for people I find icky.

Also, there’s no accounting for taste, really.