A Troubling Supreme Court Defense of Free Speech at the Sxpense of LGBTQ Rights
As a strong believer in the First Amendment, I respect the Colorado graphics artist who didn’t want to make wedding websites for gay couples, even though I strongly oppose her stance.
That’s partly because I’m old enough to remember road trips with my family to visit Southern relatives in the last days of Jim Crow racial segregation in the early 1960s.
Ominous signs saying “White,” “Colored” and “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” signaled where we could eat, sleep or go to a restroom on our travels.
“That’s why colored people buy such big cars,” a couple of my road-running cousins explained.
That’s what the “Green Book for Negro Motorists” was all about. It listed businesses that would serve Black motorists with dignity, not derision.
States that had “public accommodation” laws offered some protection until the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other legislation brought an end to legal Jim Crow. Although in a form of post-traumatic stress disorder for my generation of Black folk, I am occasionally haunted by the notion, no matter how far-fetched, that we’re only a small step away from those bad old days slipping back in on us again.
That’s how I felt about the current Supreme Court’s ruling that a Colorado website designer could legally deny service to same-sex weddings, citing her own Christian beliefs.
In 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the web designer Lorie Smith sought the high court’s permission to publicly declare that her religious convictions would not allow her small web design company “to create websites for same-sex marriages or any other marriage that is not between one man and one woman.”
And, while she cited a religious objection, the high court’s six conservatives in a majority opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, framed their argument on First Amendment grounds. (The court’s three liberal justices dissented.)
“As surely as Ms. Smith seeks to engage in protected First Amendment speech, Colorado seeks to compel speech Ms. Smith does not wish to provide,” Gorsuch wrote.
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