US SUPREME COURT MAKES CONTROVERSIAL RULING FREE SPEECH RIGHTS SUPERSEDE ANTI-DISCRIMINATION RIGHTS
US SUPREME COURT MAKES CONTROVERSIAL RULING
FREE SPEECH RIGHTS SUPERSEDE ANTI-DISCRIMINATION RIGHTS
Yet another Colorado individual providing wedding services to the public (wedding websites) gets a favorable ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. The wedding website designer refused to make wedding websites for same-sex couples due to her Christian beliefs about marriage. The court ruled that the website designer’s free speech rights got higher priority protection than the legal protections against discrimination. Businesses and individuals that create goods or services to the public can now discriminate against anyone based on religious beliefs.
The website designer, Lorie Smith, sued Colorado preemptively because she said that her Christian beliefs conflicted with the state’s antidiscrimination law, which protects individuals from discrimination, including, in this instance, LGBTQ+ individuals.
The Court stated that “all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands.” It was not a unanimous decision. The dissent stated that “the court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.”
About half the states have laws that specifically prohibit discrimination of all sorts of protected classes of individuals in public accommodations, such as retail stores, restaurants, hotels and movie theaters. Public accommodation laws ensure equal access and equal dignity for protected groups and prevent discrimination as a compelling government interest.
The Court ruling was based on the concept that Smith being compelled to provide websites to non-traditional marriage partners is compelling her ‘speech’ in violation of her First Amendment rights. The Court distinguished businesses that use “expressive designs” or “expressive activity” from other places of public accommodation, which don’t carry free speech protections. It concluded that Smith’s website designs were original and customized creations, rather than an “ordinary commercial product.”
I suppose that this could include lawyers too. So, lawyers could theoretically discriminate against protected classes of individuals. However, Epps & Coulson, LLP as a policy disagrees with this concept. To the contrary, Epps & Coulson, LLP and its affiliate counsel work hard to assist clients to avoid discrimination.
This US Supreme Court decision may impact other areas of our clients’ businesses and work. Epps & Coulson, LLP represents groups of clients in four core areas: business generally, real estate, employment and health care. We keep up with what’s going on in those core areas. We are here to help you plan and grow and protect your business and rights. Please feel free to contact Dawn at: email@example.com for any questions.
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 Reports are that the same sex couple at issue in this lawsuit actually did not ask Lorie Smith to create a website for them; the case was created to try to expand religious rights of various business owners.