Last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., and Republican colleagues in an amicus brief in the case of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, calling for the Supreme Court to review a circuit court decision that prohibits a Colorado business owner from exercising her free speech and religious liberty rights.
The petitioner, Lorie Smith, runs the website design company 303 Creative and insists she cannot provide custom services for same-sex weddings without violating her Christian faith. Under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), she must provide these custom services and is not allowed to explain her disagreement. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that Smith must comply.
Senate co-signers of the amicus brief include Republican U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, John Boozman and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Mike Braun of Indiana, John Cornyn of Texas, Steve Daines of Montana, Jim Risch of Idaho, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Jim Inhofe and James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, John Thune of South Dakota, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
The amicus brief is led in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Col.
In the brief, the members wrote:
“As this Court has long recognized, ‘[a]t the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that each person should decide for himself or herself the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression, consideration, and adherence.’ Government compulsion of artistic expression like Ms. Smith’s ‘contravenes this essential right.’ Id. The Court should grant the petition.”
The Tenth Circuit’s reasoning makes clear the true purpose of CADA’s speech compulsions—to compel dissenters to mouth views with which they disagree and to silence opposing viewpoints. After all, as the Tenth Circuit recognized, same-sex couples have no shortage of alternative options for wedding website designs.”
The point of applying CADA to Ms. Smith, then, isn’t to provide a public accommodation; it’s to force her to conform her speech to the prevailing view. Yet it is well settled that the State “is not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one, however enlightened either purpose may strike the government.”
“The First Amendment ensures that individuals of all faiths ‘are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.’
“Yet the Tenth Circuit’s decision allows the State to ‘wield CADA as a sword’ to compel speech conflicting with an individual’s deeply held beliefs. For example, an atheist musician could be forced to perform at an evangelical church service. Or a Muslim tattoo artist could be forced to write ‘My religion is the only true religion’ on the body of a Christian. These outcomes do not reflect—and profoundly undermine—our longstanding First Amendment traditions.
“Religious speech holds a uniquely important and protected place in American history and jurisprudence. Ms. Smith and others like her deserve the strongest possible First Amendment protection. The Court should grant the petition.”