Pro Bono 01 Jul. 2023

SCOTUS Rolls Back Equal Protection Rights For LGBTQ Community

New York, June 30, 2023 – Today, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of Lorie Smith, the owner of the Colorado-based wedding website design business 303 Creative, who argued that Colorado’s anti-discrimination law compelled her to endorse same-sex marriages in violation of her freedom of speech under the First Amendment. She opposes same-sex marriages because of her religious beliefs. In the majority opinion authored by Justice Gorsuch, the Court ruled that businesses that provide “expressive services” may refuse to serve members of protected classes, such as gay and lesbian couples, if the owner objects to the message that transaction may be sending.

“The Court’s decision is a devastating blow to members of the LGBTQ community, especially to those who are themselves people of faith, because it allows businesses to stigmatize and demean their relationships by subjecting them to unequal treatment,” said Curtis partner Juan Perla, who led a team of Curtis lawyers in submitting an amicus brief pro bono on behalf of two faith-based organizations in support of upholding anti-discrimination laws. “Because this case did not involve an actual dispute between the website designer and any same-sex couple, it is difficult to know for now the full impact the Court’s decision will have in the lives of LGBTQ persons and others.”

In the dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor noted that “the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.” The dissent also expressed concern that“[t]he decision threatens to balkanize the market and to allow the exclusion of other groups from many services.”

“This ruling continues a wedge-driving legal approach to the tensions that exist in religious communities around ethical issues,” stated Alexander Carpenter, executive director of Adventist Forum. “The brief that Curtis submitted on our behalf offered a constructive framework that recognized the reality that many people of faith reject these political divisions.”

Curtis submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Adventist Forum, a nonprofit committed to promoting conversation on contemporary issues within the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to creating a safe social and spiritual community for current and former LGBTQ Adventists and allies. The brief was joined by 31 individuals who are current or former ministers (or their spouses), professors, or administrators in the Adventist church or affiliated institutions

The Curtis team included partners Juan Perla and Hermann Ferré, as well as associates Kaitlyn Devenyns, Aubre G. Dean, and Allesandra Tyler.