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Colorado designer may appeal ruling that won’t let her challenge law forcing her to promote same-sex weddings

Judge says artist can’t sue against part of law, will hold rest of suit until US Supreme Court ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop

DENVER – A Colorado graphic designer who specializes in designing and creating custom websites is likely to appeal a federal judge’s ruling issued Friday. The ruling doesn’t allow her to challenge a law that forces her to use her artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies if she creates custom websites and graphics celebrating weddings between one man and one woman. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent Lorie Smith and her studio, 303 Creative.

The judge ruled that Smith and her studio can’t sue to challenge a portion of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act because a request that a couple with the first names “Stewart” and “Mike” sent Smith isn’t sufficient to prove that a same-sex couple has asked her to help them celebrate their wedding. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission has construed the law to force artists like Smith to create objectionable art even though Smith happily serves everyone and decides what art to create based on the art’s message—not her client’s personal characteristics.

The law also prohibits artists from expressing any religious views about marriage that could indicate someone is “unwelcome, objectionable, unacceptable, or undesirable” because of their sexual orientation. The judge is allowing Smith to sue against that portion of the law but is holding the case until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in another ADF case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, involving Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips.

“Artists shouldn’t be threatened with punishment for deciding, as artists always have, which messages they are going to promote or not promote,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “Because the court’s ruling allows the state to violate the freedom of artists like Lorie to make these kinds of personal decisions, she is considering appeal.”

“Every American, including artists, should be free to peacefully live and work according to their faith without fear of unjust punishment by the government,” added ADF Legal Counsel Kate Anderson. “Just because an artist creates expression that communicates one viewpoint doesn’t mean Colorado can require her to express all viewpoints. Lorie should be allowed to proceed with her legal challenge in full because it’s unlawful to force an artist to create art against her will just because the government disagrees with her beliefs.”

The lawsuit, 303 Creative v. Elenis, which ADF attorneys filed last year in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, explains how the state law runs afoul of various provisions of the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Press clauses. Specifically, the suit challenges Colorado Revised Statute § 24-34-601(2)(a). The law is the same one the commission used against Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop.

MRD Law partner Michael L. Francisco, one of nearly 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case for Smith and 303 Creative.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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