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Colorado leaders speak out after Supreme Court rules in favor of anti-LGBTQ+ website designer

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A Pride flag hangs from the balcony of the Colorado State Capitol.

DENVER — The United States Supreme Court ruled Friday in favor of a Colorado website designer who does not want to build wedding websites for LGBTQ+ couples.

Lorie Smith, a Denver-based Christian designer behind 303 Creative LLC, argued that building websites for same-sex couples violated her religious beliefs. Smith was never approached by a same-sex couple but challenged Colorado’s anti-discrimination law in 2021 at the 10th Circuit Court. That court sided against Smith, so she appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protects Smith from creating speech — in this case, a website — that is against her beliefs.

The decision was split along idealogical lines, with the court’s three liberal members dissenting. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who is from Denver, wrote the majority 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," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser called the ruling “deeply concerning,” at a Friday news conference.

“We cannot let this opinion, which is wrongly decided, define us,” Weiser said, adding that he believes the ruling is subject to more litigation and possibilities of being overturned. In Colorado, Weiser said, the state will do everything it can to protect LGBTQ+ people and ensure they are not subjected to discrimination.

Because the case was decided without a real couple asking for Smith’s services, Weiser believed the court shouldn’t have ruled in this first place, as the ruling was based entirely on hypothetical situations.

“The victims were not seen in the majority’s decision,” he said. “The Supreme Court, in our view, should never have decided this case on merits without any basis in reality.”

AJ Shaikh, chair of the Colorado LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, said the ruling could have impacts reaching further than just businesses shutting their doors to same-sex couples.

“This decision will make it more difficult for LGBTQ people to find businesses, housing and other essential services,” Shaikh said. “This decision sets progress back.”

Rex Fuller, chief executive officer at The Center on Colfax — Denver’s LGBTQ+ community center — said the decision was especially disappointing to receive on the last day of Pride month.

“The court just said ‘it’s fine to discriminate against anyone you don’t like as long as you use your religion as an excuse,’” Fuller said. “It’s not difficult to imagine what other civil rights that took us years to earn are now at risk.”

Friday's decision reiterated the need for LGBTQ Pride month, Fuller added.

Nadine Bridges, executive director of statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy organization One Colorado, said the case was about cruel discrimination, not weddings or websites.

“The decision made by the Supreme Court today is heartbreaking,” Bridges said.“It was deliberately fabricated to undermine the civil rights laws that protect all of us from discrimination.”

All leaders at Friday’s news conference said inclusive business practices are both settled law and common decency. The practice of discriminating against one group is a slippery slope, they added.

“Discrimination in the name of religion is still discrimination,” Fuller said. 

Friday’s decision followed a court ruling against student debt relief enacted by President Joe Biden. In a written statement, Colorado's Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, the first openly gay person to be elected governor of a state, called both rulings “misguided.”

“Unfortunately, Americans have seen the Supreme Court become increasingly obsessed with taking away freedoms. In Colorado we always seek to protect freedom and end discrimination,” Polis wrote. “These rulings run counter to Colorado values  and we will continue to fight against bigotry and discrimination in all their ugly forms.”

Alison Berg is a reporter at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at

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