by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch issued a harsh rebuke of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent in the case of a Christian web designer who the court ruled was not obligated to design websites for gay couples.
“It is difficult to read the dissent and conclude we are looking at the same case,” Gorsuch wrote in the 6-3 Supreme Court decision on Friday. That decision said web designer Lorie Smith was not legally required to design websites for gay marriages because doing so would violate her free speech rights and Christian beliefs, despite a Colorado law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Gorsuch said Sotomayor’s dissent in the case “reimagines the facts” from “top to bottom” and fails to answer the fundamental question of, “Can a State force someone who provides her own expressive services to abandon her conscience and speak its preferred message instead?”
“In some places, the dissent gets so turned around about the facts that it opens fire on its own position,” Gorsuch wrote. “For instance: While stressing that a Colorado company cannot refuse ‘the full and equal enjoyment of [its] services’ based on a customer’s protected status… the dissent assures us that a company selling creative services ‘to the public’ does have a right ‘to decide what messages to include or not to include…’ But if that is true, what are we even debating?”
Gorsuch wrote that rather than address the key aspects of the case, the dissent “spends much of its time adrift on a sea of hypotheticals about photographers, stationers, and others, asking if they too provide expressive services covered by the First Amendment.
”Friday’s decision reversed a lower court ruling that sided against Smith, who said the law infringed on her First Amendment rights by forcing her to promote messages that violate her deeply held faith.