DENVER, Co. — A graphic artist in Colorado has filed a preemptive lawsuit to challenge a state law that she says forbids her from turning down orders to create websites in favor of same-sex “marriage.”
Lorie Smith runs 303 Creative, where she creates custom websites for clients. Smith, who identifies as a Christian, believes that God has called her to “promote and celebrate His design for marriage by designing and creating custom wedding websites.” This would therefore not include designing websites pertaining to homosexual nuptials.
But Colorado law states that it is “unlawful for a person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation.”
Businesses are also prohibited from publishing or posting any information that advises their intent to refuse such accommodation. Smith had planned on outlining on her website why she could only accept site creation orders pertaining to the union of a man and a woman..
Smith is consequently concerned that the Colorado civil rights law both criminalizes her speech and forces her, against her convictions, to accept site creation orders related to same-sex “marriage.”
“If Lorie and 303 Creative were to convey their desired messages and decline to convey objectionable messages, they would face costly and onerous investigations, fines of up to $500 for each violation, and oppressive mandates—such as staff re-education training—that can themselves compel objectionable speech,” her complaint, filed on Tuesday by the legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), outlines.
Smith is seeking a declaratory judgment that the Colorado civil rights law violates the free speech, free exercise and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution, as well as a preliminary and permanent injunction against its enforcement.
“Every American, including artists, should be free to peacefully live and work according to their faith without fear of unjust punishment by the government,” remarked ADF Legal Counsel Samuel Green in a statement.
“Just because an artist creates expression that communicates one viewpoint doesn’t mean Colorado can require her to express all viewpoints,” he said. “It’s unlawful to force an artist to create against her will and intimidate her into silence just because the government disagrees with her beliefs.”
But Amanda Henderson, the executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, told the Denver Post that she doesn’t think Smith should be able to decline the custom site orders.
“Nobody should be turned away from a business or denied service simply because of who they are,” she remarked in a statement. “Allowing business owners to refuse service to customers whom they dislike, or disapprove, will open a can of worms and make it more difficult to enforce Colorado’s laws that ensure businesses are open to everyone.”
Smith says that she has received a number of hateful and vile messages following the filing of the suit.
“I am very sorry that some people are so intolerant of my beliefs—beliefs shared by many Jews, Muslims, Christians, and nonreligious people in this country and the throughout the world—as to harass you,” she has written on her business site. “If we disagree, we should be able to do so civilly. That is the mark of a healthy and free society.”