Philly reacts to U.S. Supreme Court siding with anti-LGBTQ+ wedding designer

The ruling provides a ‘green light’ for businesses to discriminate, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said

By: - July 2, 2023 6:30 am
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether a web designer can refuse to create wedding websites for same-sex couples. (Photo illustration by Iowa Capital Dispatch with images via Canva)

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether a web designer can refuse to create wedding websites for same-sex couples (Photo illustration by the Iowa Capital Dispatch with images via Canva).

By Jeremy Rodriguez

PHILADELPHIA — The Supreme Court Friday ruled in favor of a Colorado-based evangelical Christian graphic artist who refuses to create wedding websites for same-sex couples.

The vote for 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis split 6 to 3, with the liberal justices in dissent.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who wrote for the Supreme Court majority, said the First Amendment protects designer Lorie Smith.

“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,” Gorsuch wrote. “Colorado seeks to deny that promise.”

Throughout the case, Smith argued that she should not design wedding websites for LGBTQ+ clients because it would oppose her religious beliefs and violate her freedom of speech.

Other justices who voted in favor of the ruling were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored the dissent, and was supported by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

In her dissent, Sotomayer called the ruling “a sad day in American constitutional law and in the lives of LGBT people.”

“LGBT people have existed for all of human history. And as sure as they have existed, others have sought to deny their existence, and to exclude them from public life,” she said.

Colorado designer does not have to make websites for same-sex couples, U.S. Supreme Court rules

Independence Business Alliance, Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, released a statement reacting to the ruling.

“Let’s be clear,” the business group’s statement reads. “Discrimination is bad for business — and support for LGBTQ+ equality is at an all-time high: A supermajority of Americans support nondiscrimination laws and the freedom to marry. Regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reckless and radical ruling in the ‘303 Creative’ case, we call on all fair-minded business owners to condemn discrimination, and on all fair-minded people to support equality for all. LGBTQ+ people are family members, co-workers, business owners, classmates, and customers in every community. Together we will continue working side by side with our neighbors to ensure freedom and inclusion for everyone.”

The Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association echoed that statement while also urging elected officials to pass nondiscrimination legislation.

“This decision sets a dangerous precedent that could open the door to more discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations,” said Kevin Levy, chair of the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association. “And it isn’t lost on us that this decision comes during LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a time where the LGBTQ+ community and our allies come together to celebrate our community’s achievements and continue to wage battles for full equality under the law.”

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, wrote a tweet in response to the ruling.

“The radical Supreme Court is yet again chipping at our fundamental freedoms and declaring open season for bigotry,” Kenyatta wrote. “This decision is not grounded in impartial jurisprudence. These are unelected judges pushing outrageous policy.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney also issued a statement Friday, adding that the decision provides a “green light” for businesses to discriminate.

“Over many decades, our country has made important, hard-won progress toward an equitable and just society — and today’s ruling is a devastating step backward in this ongoing pursuit,” Kenney said. “The City of Philadelphia remains committed to ensuring fair treatment and opportunity for all people, including our LGBTQ communities, and urges all businesses and institutions to maintain this standard.”

Jeremy Rodriguez is the editor of the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.