Supreme Court to hear clash involving religion and LGBT rights

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new dispute involving religion and LGBT rights.

The high court said on Tuesday it would hear the case of Colorado-based web designer Lorie Smith. Smith offers graphic design and website services and wants to expand wedding website services, but she says her religious beliefs would lead her to refuse any request from a same-sex couple to design a wedding website. She also wants to post a statement on her website about her beliefs, but that would violate a Colorado anti-discrimination law. Smith had argued that the law violated his free speech and religious rights.

The Supreme Court, however, said in taking up the case that it would only consider the issue of free speech. He said he would decide whether a law requiring an artist to speak or remain silent violates the First Amendment’s free speech clause. The case is expected to go to trial in the fall.

In a 2-1 decision last year, the Denver-based 10th United States Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Smith’s attempt to overturn a lower court decision dismissing his legal challenge. The panel said Colorado has a compelling interest in protecting the “dignity interests” of members of marginalized groups through its law, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.

The law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, is the same as that at issue in the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips which was decided in 2018 by the United States Supreme Court.

The high court said at the time that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission acted with an anti-religious bias against Phillips after he refused to bake a cake for two men who were getting married. But he did not comment on the broader question of whether a company can raise religious objections to refuse to serve LGBTQ people.

Both Smith and Phillips were represented by the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom.

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