Religious Freedom vs. Anti-Discrimination Laws: The US Supreme Court’s Decision on Business Owners’ Right to Refuse Service to LGBT Couples

The US Supreme Court has ruled that certain businesses can refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings based on constitutional free speech protections, which is a blow to LGBT rights. The decision allows business owners to refuse service to LGBT couples if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. The case concerned Lorie Smith, a Christian web designer from Colorado who refused to create websites for same-sex couple. The court ruled that Smith, as a creative professional, has a free speech right under the Constitution’s First Amendment to refuse to endorse messages she disagrees with.

The decision is rooted in free speech grounds and will pierce state public accommodation laws for those businesses who sell so-called “expressive” goods. The ruling could allow other similar business owners to evade punishment under laws in 29 states that protect LGBTQ rights in public accommodations in some form. The decision is a retreat on gay rights for the court, which has expanded the rights of LGBTQ people for nearly three decades.

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