Life Legal filed a “friend of the Court” or amicus brief today urging the Supreme Court to overturn a court ruling forcing a Christian graphic artist to design wedding websites for same-sex marriages. We filed our brief on behalf of Lorie Smith, who is challenging Colorado‘s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), which prohibits business from refusing to provide goods and services based on a customer’s sexual orientation. Smith believes marriage is a life-long union between one man and one woman and cannot in good conscience design wedding websites for same-sex couples. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that while Smith’s websites are a form of speech, her First Amendment rights are trumped by Colorado’s “compelling interest” in protecting the dignity of marginalized groups and allowing them access to Smith’s unique talents.
We filed our brief because it is easy to imagine how laws like CADA will be used to compel pro-abortion speech. In fact, a 2018 California law forced pro-life pregnancy centers to tell women how they could get free, state-funded abortions. The Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional, but the Court did not address other circumstances under which states could compel speech.
In Smith’s case, the Tenth Circuit held that laws forcing speech are subject to the highest level of judicial review, i.e., “strict scrutiny.” Such laws must serve a “compelling governmental interest” and be narrowly tailored to accomplish that interest. We argue in our brief that courts have degraded “compelling” interests to the point that almost any interest can be used to justify forcing people to say or do something that violates their most deeply held beliefs.
This renders the compelling interest standard useless to protect the First Amendment rights of anyone whose views differ from the mainstream — or from the government’s own opinions.
Of course we object to any situation where the government would force speech, but we are especially concerned about cases implicating the protection of human life. If the Tenth Circuit’s ruling is upheld, its reasoning could be used not only force pro-abortion speech, but in certain cases could even force pro-life physicians and nurses to perform abortions and euthanize patients.
As we note in our brief, “The State could compel anyone to provide any service that the State favors and deems equivalent to other services, no matter how irrational, immoral, or repugnant to their conscience (i.e., abortion, assisted suicide, or euthanasia).”
“It is unfathomable that our First Amendment right not to speak would be forced to give way to the woke dictates of a state bureaucracy, whether regarding the institution of marriage or the protection of human life,” stated Life Legal’s Chief Legal Officer and co-author of the amicus brief, Katie Short.
“No one should be forced to speak — particularly to speak a message that violates his or her conscience — in the service of purported ‘compelling’ governmental interests, which are now a dime a dozen.”
The Court will hear oral argument in Smith’s case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, No. 21-476, during its 2022-2023 term, which begins in October.
Please stand with us in the fight against bureaucracies that force their woke ideologies on those who believe in God’s created order regarding marriage and human life. We are so grateful for your faithful, prayerful support.