But not everyone has heard of Lorie Smith, and her Denver-based graphics and website design business, 303 Creative LLC. Ms. Smith, a Christian, feels strongly that her calling is to help promote marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman through the websites she creates for engaged couples.
She wanted to clearly communicate on her own business website her vision, her faith, and her intention to limit her designs to opposite-sex marriage. She feared, however, that her website statement might run afoul of the same Colorado law that ensnared Masterpiece Cakeshop in legal proceedings for seven years. That state law has two basic components applicable to same-sex couples: 1. You can’t turn away business on the basis of sexual orientation (the one that impacted Masterpiece Cakeshop); and 2. You can’t advertise or communicate that you will turn away business on the basis of sexual orientation (303 Creative’s dilemma).
So Ms. Smith and her attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom brought a legal challenge to the second part of the law before she posted it, alleging that she was fearful of prosecution and that the law violated her freedoms of speech and religion and her right to equal protection of the laws.
Last Friday, a federal judge in Denver turned away Ms. Smith’s legal challenge, holding that the “communication” or “advertising” portion of the law did not infringe any of her rights. The judge stated that the law was “neutral” and of “general applicability,” and only incidentally affected her religious objections.
It seems that Ms. Smith’s good faith attempt to communicate her religious beliefs so as to avoid the embarrassment to a same-sex couple of an over-the-phone or in-store refusal to use her creative talents to promote a same-sex union will not be tolerated. The judge shockingly compared her proposed web statement to a “Whites Only” sign familiar from the days of racial segregation. The judge did indicate that Ms. Smith was free to express her sentiments concerning marriage on a personal website, but not her business website.
As Christians attempt to navigate the current anti-Christian worldview that has overtaken many state legislatures and municipalities, resulting in laws similar to Colorado’s, they perhaps can take a creative lesson from the experience of Liberty Ridge Farm in New York. After denying a same-sex couple’s request in 2014 to hold their wedding ceremony there, the farm’s Christian owners were found guilty of discrimination and ordered to allow the wedding venue to be rented by such couples. Now the owners include a statement on their website that a part of their profits will be donated to a Christian public policy advocacy group that is widely known as a defender of biblical standards for sexuality and marriage.
There has been no word yet as to whether Ms. Smith intends to file an appeal.