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Why My Case Could Pick Up Where Masterpiece Cakeshop Left Off

Alliance Defending Freedom
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If the government won’t let me speak and make a living in line with my deepest beliefs, it won’t let you, either.

Ed. Note: The following piece, written by Alliance Defending Freedom client Lorie Smith, originally appeared at National Review.

The most insightful thing I’ve learned about the U.S. Supreme Court is that, when the justices agree to listen to any of us, they’re really, in a sense, listening to all of us. Their focus is not just on one particular person but on how their decisions will affect the entire nation.

So, in asking them to defend my freedoms in a brief my attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom filed last week, I’m not just asking for me. I’m asking on behalf of many others — even those who disagree with me.

And when it comes to my beliefs about marriage, some people do disagree with me. I am a Christian, and I believe that marriage is a very special institution designed by God to be the union of one man and one woman.

Many hold a different view. They live their lives and operate their businesses accordingly. They choose to speak and express their beliefs. I’m simply asking for the same freedom.

I’m a graphic artist and Web designer, running a one-woman design studio, 303 Creative. And while I love to create designs and websites promoting causes close to my heart — such as supporting veterans, children with special needs, overseas missions, and animal shelters — I’ve dreamed of designing wedding websites and graphics since I was a little girl, and I would truly love to expand my portfolio into this space to celebrate weddings. I want to work with couples to tell a story through my custom graphics and website designs about how they met and how beautiful and complementary God’s design for marriage between a man and a woman is.

Trouble is, officials in my home state say I’m not welcome in this space. According to a Colorado law, if I create websites promoting marriage consistent with my faith, I must create websites promoting views of marriage I disagree with. This law has already been used that way against other religious business owners. Colorado has used this same law to punish cake artist Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who’s now been in litigation for a decade defending himself from this law.

Even though I work with everyone from all walks of life, including those who identify as LGBT, Colorado officials have made it crystal clear in my litigation that their law requires me to create and celebrate messages about marriage that go against my faith, the very core of who I am. So I’ve been waiting for nearly six years to create and design websites to celebrate weddings without Colorado forcing me to say something I don’t believe.

And it’s been a long, difficult road. I’ve received death threats and unspeakably hateful messages just because I have a different belief about marriage than others. Hackers seeking to cause me harm attempt to gain access to my website on an almost daily basis. And my family and clients have been harassed and threatened.

But I have pressed on because I’m not just standing for my own freedom to speak freely. Just as I don’t want to be forced to say something contrary to my core convictions, I don’t believe anyone else should be, either. For example, an LGBT designer shouldn’t be forced to create a website promoting the Catholic Church’s beliefs about marriage, and a Democratic artist shouldn’t be forced to design posters promoting the Republican Party. If the government can force me to speak inconsistently with my beliefs, it could force just about anyone to.

And I can disagree with someone’s ideas without wishing them ill. I can and have worked with people from all walks of life. My decision to take on a project never depends on who the person is, but on the message they want me to express. Some ideas I can promote; others, I can’t — no matter who asks.

That’s not an unreasonable position, either. It’s something most of us do every day with family, friends, and co-workers. We can respectfully interact and work with others without pretending to agree with — much less affirm — everything they believe in.

But my home state of Colorado says that’s not good enough. Instead, Colorado demands I promote messages about marriage that aren’t consistent with my values.

Ironically, I left the corporate world to start my own design studio precisely because I wanted to be able to design things close to my heart and consistent with my beliefs. But if the government won’t let me speak and make a living consistent with those beliefs, it could do the same to you. Whether your beliefs align with mine or not, all of us are at risk if the government that happens to be in power gets to say, “These views are permitted. Those views aren’t.”

That's why I took this journey all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And that's why I'm immensely grateful it agreed to hear it ... for your sake, as well as mine.

Alliance Defending Freedom
Alliance Defending Freedom
Non-profit organization
ADF is the world's largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, marriage and family, and parental rights.