Laurie Smith, owner of 303 Creative LLC, may have won a Supreme Court victory over free speech, but the personal battle isn’t over — in fact, she says it’s been going on for six years.
Smith said life has sometimes “terrified” him since he filed his complaint in 2016. He denies creating websites for same-sex weddings, which has brought controversy to his business. with Colorado State.
“They put my home address on social media, I received a lot of threats – death threats, threats of bodily harm,” he said. “The security system at my home, at my kid’s school is on alert. I’ve lost my business, my clients are being harassed, and my website… people are trying to hack it almost every hour. I don’t know what it is. It’s coming after Monday, but if history is anything to go by predicting events, some of these things may continue if they don’t escalate.”
The basis of the Smith case, 303 Creative vs. Elenis is a First Amendment issue about whether Colorado can compel a businessman to say something they don’t believe. It addresses discrimination against the LGBTQ community and the grounds for denying someone service.
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“His case is focused solely on forced speech because Colorado controls and censors what it wants to express through its specific art,” said Kelly Fiedorek, senior counsel at Union Defending Freedom, which supports Smith and director of government affairs.
In July 2021, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Smith, so he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in September and granted the petition for a hearing scheduled for February 2022.
Oral arguments began Monday, and with a conservative majority, the court will side with Smith.
“Given that Ms. Smith lost her case in the lower courts and that the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, there appears to be very strong evidence that the Supreme Court intends to rule in Ms. Smith’s favor and that the court intends to further strengthen these aspects of the case. The First Amendment protects Americans from compelled speech by the government,” said Mark Smith, a constitutional attorney and law professor at Ave Maria School of Law.
“The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment recognizes the right to speak freely,” he added. “The First Amendment also recognizes the constitutional right not to be forced by the government to express opinions that you don’t want to say or that you don’t support. Colorado law here compels creative artists like Lori Smith to express their opinions in a creative way. They have religious reasons. they resist.”
Even if she wins, Smith says she’s had nightmares that left her and her young daughter sleeping on the floor of their home.
Smith said the first night after the lawsuit was filed, her husband was traveling and a neighbor posted her address on social media.
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“I was scared,” she said. “I remember that night and cars coming down the street and I was worried that someone was going to hurt us because the messages I was getting were threatening — some desperate, violent, obvious things. I was naturally worried and and I remember sleeping on the floor with my daughter that night not knowing exactly what was going on – but honestly scared that someone might do what they threatened.”
Smith’s message is that he is not hostile to the LGBTQ community, and that he has LGBTQ clients working on projects outside of same-sex marriage.
He added that he would never want an LGBTQ business owner to be forced to make anti-LGBTQ products, and that if he wins his case, that protection will be available to everyone.
Is it worth the stress, threats and fear to solve the free speech problem for Smith? He says so.
“It protects not only me, but those who have different views on marriage, maybe those who oppose my views on marriage,” he said. “The right to free speech is guaranteed to all of us, and it has been difficult at times.”
“Even if it comes at a cost, it’s a right worth protecting.”
Colorado Civil Rights Director Aubrey Elenis and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office were reached for comment, but did not receive a response.