The Denver-based graphic designer who now finds herself in the middle of a Supreme Court battle says she was shocked when she first learned that a Colorado state law required her to design websites for same-sex couples against her Christian faith.
“When I decided I wanted to create for weddings, that was a natural thing for me,” Lorie Smith, owner of the website design company 303 Creative, told Fox News Digital in an interview. “My mom’s business was in the wedding industry. So that was not a new concept. I’ve always loved weddings, starting back with my own wedding.
“So here I am working hard starting, you know, my business and wanting to get into creating for weddings, only to learn that the way that I want to design and create is not allowable.
“And it certainly rocked me. I mean, how … can wanting to design and create a wedding through God’s lens be something that’s punishable in the state of Colorado in this country?”
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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court said it would hear arguments in her case Dec. 5. Consideration by the highest court in the land will cap a six-year legal battle between Colorado and Smith’s company, which claims the state is censoring her speech and forcing her to promote ideas through her art that violate her beliefs, like websites for same-sex weddings.
The case could have a sweeping effect on the free speech rights of artists selling their works in the public sector. It also gives the nine justices an opportunity to expand on the precedent set by the Masterpiece Cakeshop case involving another Colorado artist, baker Jack Phillips, in which the court said the government can’t be hostile to people of faith and the beliefs they hold.
In that case, the court issued a narrow decision that said state officials can’t be hostile to religion and people of faith but didn’t decide the much larger question of whether the state has a right to force artists to create works that violate their religious beliefs.
Smith says “nobody should be punished or compelled or silenced simply because their beliefs are different from the government.”
“I recognize that not everybody holds the same view on marriage as I do, and that’s OK because what I’m asking the court to do is protect those people’s rights as well. To protect their right to think and speak freely,” she said.
Smith creates custom websites for a broad swath of clients, including an organization that feeds and houses Denver’s homeless community and a nonprofit that pairs veterans struggling with PTSD with service dogs. Smith noted that she also has clients who identify as LGBT.
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“I love the process of getting to know them before we actually get to creating,” Smith said of her relationship with clients. “I have a very thorough process of getting to know who my clients are. I want to know what they’re passionate about, why they’re asking me to help them … Is it a good fit? Is what they’re looking for something that I can do and provide? Am I passionate about it? And then I just really enjoy having a relationship with my clients.”
Smith says her inspiration to open her own business came from her mother, who lived “the American dream,” owning a woman’s clothing boutique in downtown Denver. Smith says she spent most of her free time at the boutique.
“I had the unique privilege of being in that environment, watching firsthand what it looks like to run and own a business,” Smith said. “My mom worked really hard. She started from scratch. So, you know, in the time that she started her business, boutiques weren’t really a big thing in the Denver Metro area and other areas of the country … but she was trying to start something new and different here.”
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Jake Warner, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, says he is “hopeful” for a victory, saying that the ramifications could affect the ability of “all Americans to say what they believe without fear” of government retaliation.
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The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, Monday, Dec. 5 at 10 a.m.