Public accommodations laws ensure all customers can participate in everyday commercial exchanges to buy the goods and services they need from businesses that open their doors to the public. Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) protects these customers’ equal access and equal dignity by requiring businesses open to the public to sell their goods and services to all customers regardless of protected characteristics. But 303 Creative LLC wants to refuse service to same-sex couples in the future sale of wedding-website design services, claiming that serving these potential customers could send a message that it does not want to convey because of its owner’s sincerely held religious beliefs.
A federal district court ruled that 303 Creative has no constitutional right to be exempted from complying with CADA. 303 Creative then appealed that loss to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. 303 Creative argued that complying with CADA would violate its free-exercise-of-religion and free-speech rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Americans United authored an amicus brief in the appeal on behalf of itself and other religious and civil-rights organizations, arguing that the Free Exercise Clause does not require Colorado to exempt 303 Creative from compliance with CADA and that the Establishment Clause in fact forbids the requested exemption. In July 2021, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment, concluding that CADA did not violate 303 Creative’s First Amendment religion and speech rights.
303 Creative successfully sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court agreed to hear the case during its 2022-23 term, though the Court limited its review solely to the free-speech arguments raised by 303 Creative.
In August 2022, Americans United joined an amicus brief with Muslim Advocates, Columbia Law School’s Law, Rights & Religion Project, and many other organizations that are committed both to supporting people of faith’s full and equal participation in American life and to safeguarding the Constitution’s guarantee of religious liberty. The brief argues that creating a First Amendment right to deny “expressive” products and services would radically limit market access for those protected by public accommodation laws.
Unfortunately, on June 30, 2023, the Court ruled 6-3 (with the three liberal justices in dissent) in favor of the website designer, granting her and other “expressive” businesses an unprecedented right to discriminate.