Friday, June 30, 2023

Christopher Vasquez | NCLR Director of Communications
415-365-1337 | cvasquez@nclrights.org

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, in a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that certain businesses that involve customized expressive messages may turn away same-sex couples or other customers. The ruling came in the case 303 Creative v. Elenis, in which the Court addressed whether a website designer in Colorado could refuse to design wedding websites for same-sex couples. 

Writing for the Majority, Justice Gorsuch held that “the First Amendment bars Colorado from forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees.”  

The majority opinion based its holding on the State of Colorado’s stipulation “that Ms. Smith does not seek to sell an ordinary commercial good but intends to create ‘customized and tailored’ speech for each couple and that ‘[e]ach website 303 Creative designs and creates is an original, customized creation for each client.”

In her dissent, which was joined by Justices Kagan and Jackson, Justice Sotomayor noted that “Today, 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.”


“While the Court’s holding is narrow and will apply only to a very small number of businesses, the dissenting justices rightly stress that the decision creates an unprecedented exception to nondiscrimination laws. This decision is out of step with the values held by the great majority of people in this country, who understand that discrimination has no more place in the public marketplace than it has in workplaces, government, or schools. We join the dissenting justices in calling on business owners to live out the values of equality and fairness and to affirm their commitment to serving all, without regard to race, age, nationality, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or gender. We are stronger together and we are confident that this disappointing decision will be no more than an unfortunate footnote in our nation’s ongoing commitment to realizing the ideals of freedom and equality for all.” 

Polling consistently shows that nearly four-fifths of Americans support non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals – including 65% who believe that businesses should not be allowed to legally use religious beliefs to deny service based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other protected characteristic, including race, sex, age, or nationality. 


The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Since its founding, NCLR has maintained a longstanding commitment to racial and economic justice and the LGBTQ community’s most vulnerable. https://www.nclrights.org/