Supreme Court rules businesses can turn away same-sex couples, despite anti-discrimination law

protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building
(Image credit: Anna Moneymaker / Staff / Getty Images)

The Supreme Court sided with a Christan graphic artist from Colorado who argued her beliefs prohibited her from creating wedding sites for same-sex couples, despite the state's anti-discrimination laws. In a 6-3 vote, the conservative majority ruled that "the First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees," The New York Times summarized.

The decision came on the same day court rejected Biden's student loan forgiveness plan and a day after striking down affirmative action. "The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.

In what is being "framed as a clash between free speech and gay rights," the case was the latest blow in a series of Supreme Court decisions that favored religious freedom, the Times added. The court ruling "also appeared to suggest that the rights of LGBTQ people, including to same-sex marriage, are on more vulnerable legal footing," the Times added, "particularly when they are at odds with claims of religious freedom."

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the ruling "profoundly wrong" in the dissenting opinion. "Today, 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," she wrote, calling it a "sad day in American constitutional law and the lives of LGBT people." She also suggested the decision could have far-reaching consequences. She added that the ruling "threatens to balkanize the market and to allow the exclusion of other groups from many services."

At a news conference Friday, the artist at the center of the case, Lorie Smith, said she was grateful to the court, which "affirmed today that Colorado can't force me or anyone to say something we don't believe."

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Theara Coleman

Theara Coleman is a Staff Writer for The Week. A New York native, she previously served as a contributing writer and assistant editor for Honeysuckle Magazine, where she covered racial politics and cannabis industry news. Theara graduated from Howard University and New York University, receiving her BA and MA in English Literature, respectively. She has a background in education as a former High School English teacher. She brings her passion for reading, writing, and all things nerdy to her work as a journalist.