The US Supreme Court has struck a blow against gay rights after deciding in favour of a Christian graphic-designer who refused to serve same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs.
The court ruled 6-3 for designer Lorie Smith, who had argued a Colorado law that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender and other characteristics is against her rights to free speech.
Smith’s argument was that, as an artist, a ruling against her would force artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — to do work that is against their beliefs.
Colorado state law prohibits businesses open to the public refusing service because of sexual orientation. But the Supreme Court now says artists cannot be compelled to express messages against their religious beliefs.
Smith’s business, called 303 Creative, sells custom web designs, but she opposed providing her services for same-sex weddings.
Smith’s lawyer, Kristen Waggoner, said the Supreme Court was right to reaffirm that the government cannot compel people to say things they do not believe.
“Disagreement isn’t discrimination, and the government can’t mislabel speech as discrimination to censor it,” she said in a statement.
Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the ruling that Colorado’s law would force Smith to create speech that she does not believe, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
“Were the rule otherwise, the better the artist, the finer the writer, the more unique his talent, the more easily his voice could be conscripted to disseminate the government’s preferred messages. That would not respect the First Amendment; more nearly, it would spell its demise,” Gorsuch wrote.