Supreme Court rules businesses can refuse service to LGBTQ+ customers

by Ivana Saric

Businesses can refuse to serve same-sex couples if doing so would violate the owners’ religious beliefs, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

Why it matters: The court has significantly expanded LGBTQ rights over the past several years, but is now carving out some exceptions.

Driving the news: The case concerns Lorie Smith, a Colorado web designer who wanted to create and sell wedding websites, but not to same-sex couples.

  • Colorado’s civil rights law prohibited her, or any business that serves the general public, from turning away customers because of their sexual orientation. She said complying with that law would force her to espouse views she does not agree with.
  • “The artwork that I create is speech,” Smith told Colorado Public Radio in December, adding that, “those messages must be consistent with my convictions.”

The big picture: The conservative-majority Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of Smith, saying she has a First Amendment right to refuse to design custom wedding websites for same-sex couples.

  • “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. Colorado cannot deny that promise consistent with the First Amendment,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.
  • “The opportunity to think for ourselves and to express those thoughts freely is among our most cherished liberties and part of what keeps our Republic strong,” Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.
  • “All of us will encounter ideas we consider “unattractive,” Gorsuch wrote, but added that “tolerance, not coercion, is our Nation’s answer.”