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Supreme Court notes clash of religion and gay rights

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The Supreme Court hears on Monday the case of a Christian graphic designer who opposes the design of wedding websites for gay couples, a dispute that is the latest clash between religion and gay rights to land before the most high Court.

The designer and her supporters say ruling against her would force artists – from painters and photographers to writers and musicians – to do work contrary to their faith. Her opponents, meanwhile, say that if she wins, a range of businesses will be able to discriminate, refusing to serve black customers, Jews or Muslims, interracial or interfaith couples or immigrants, among others.

The case comes at a time when the court is dominated 6-3 by the Tories and following a series of cases in which the justices have sided with religious plaintiffs. It also comes as, in front of the court, congressional lawmakers finalize a landmark bill protecting same-sex marriage.

The bill, which also protects interracial marriage, gained momentum following the High Court’s decision earlier this year to end constitutional abortion protections. That decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade case raised questions about whether the court – now that it is more conservative – could also overturn its 2015 ruling declaring a national right to same-sex marriage. Judge Clarence Thomas explicitly said the decision should also be reconsidered.

The case being heard in the High Court on Monday involves Lorie Smith, a graphic designer and web designer from Colorado who wants to start offering wedding websites. Smith says his Christian faith prevents him from creating websites celebrating same-sex marriages. But that could get him in trouble with state law. Colorado, like most other states, has what is called a public hosting law which states that if Smith offers wedding websites to the public, it must provide them to all customers. Companies that break the law can be fined, among other things.

Five years ago, the Supreme Court heard a different challenge involving Colorado law and a baker, Jack Phillips, who objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple. That case ended in a limited decision, however, and set up a return of the matter to the High Court. Phillips’ attorney, Kristen Wagoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, is now representing Smith.

Like Phillips, Smith says his objection is not to working with gay people. She says she would work with a gay client who needed help with graphics for an animal shelter, for example, or to promote an organization serving children with disabilities. But she opposes creating posts supporting same-sex marriage, she says, just as she won’t take jobs that would require her to create content that promotes atheism or gambling or supports sexuality. ‘abortion.

Smith says the Colorado law violates his free speech rights. His opponents, including the Biden administration and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, disagree.

Twenty mostly liberal states, including California and New York, back Colorado while another 20 mostly Republican states, including Arizona, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, back Smith.

The case is 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, 21-476.

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