303 Creative LLC v. Elenis

143 S. Ct. 2298 (2023)

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303 Creative LLC v. Elenis

United States Supreme Court
143 S. Ct. 2298 (2023)

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Facts

Website designer Lorie Smith owned 303 Creative LLC (plaintiff), a Colorado-based website-and-graphic-design business. Smith wanted to begin offering wedding-website services through 303 Creative. However, Smith believed that marriage was reserved for heterosexual couples and thus did not want to create wedding websites for same-sex couples. Smith was concerned that if 303 Creative began offering wedding-website-design services, Smith would be forced to create wedding websites that were inconsistent with her beliefs because of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), which prohibited businesses from engaging in discrimination in the sale of goods and services to the public. Potential penalties for violating CADA included mandatory training and monetary fines. Smith brought an action in federal district court against Colorado Civil Rights Division Director Aubrey Elenis and other state officials (collectively, the state) (defendants), seeking an injunction prohibiting the state from forcing Smith to create wedding websites for same-sex couples. Smith and the officials stipulated, among other things, that (1) 303 Creative’s graphic-design and website-design services were expressive in nature and involved Smith’s creation of original, customized designs that conveyed messages celebrating and promoting marriage, (2) website viewers would know that the websites were original artwork created by Smith and 303 Creative, (3) Smith’s beliefs about marriage were a sincerely held religious conviction, and (4) Smith refused to produce content that contradicted biblical truth. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment for the state, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed. The Tenth Circuit said that Smith’s potential wedding websites were pure speech protected by the First Amendment. However, the court reasoned that Colorado had a compelling interest in ensuring equality in the provision of goods and services to the public, and that goal could not be achieved by a less restrictive alternative than compelling Smith to create websites for all customers. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gorsuch, J.)

Dissent (Sotomayor, J.)

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