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Lorie Smith is a conservative Christian and a website designer who thinks she should be able to engage in her chosen occupation without compromising her moral beliefs. But that is illegal in Colorado, where Smith is forbidden to create websites for heterosexual weddings unless she is also willing to create websites for gay weddings.
The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) simultaneously censors Smith by stopping her from announcing the principles that guide her work and requires her to express a message that contradicts those principles. The question for the Supreme Court, which heard Smith's case on Monday, is whether those commands are consistent with her First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
Colorado and Smith agree that she is happy to serve any customer, regardless of sexual orientation, provided the work is consistent with biblical values as she understands them. In practice, both parties say, that means Smith "will decline any request to design, create, or promote content" that "contradicts biblical truth," "demeans or disparages others," "promotes sexual immorality," "supports the destruction of unborn children," "incites violence," or "promotes any conception of marriage other than marriage between one man and one woman."
Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit agreed with Smith that her custom website designs "are pure speech." It said Colorado's rules therefore amount to compelled speech as well as viewpoint-based speech restrictions, making them subject to "strict scrutiny."
That standard is very hard to satisfy. It requires that a challenged law be "narrowly tailored" to advance a "compelling" government interest, meaning that goal cannot be served through less restrictive means.
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