303 Creative LLC v. Elenis - Wikipedia

303 Creative LLC v. Elenis
Argued December 5, 2022
Full case name303 Creative LLC, et al. v. Aubrey Elenis, et al.
Docket no.21-476
ArgumentOral argument
Case history
Prior303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, 385 F. Supp. 3d 1147 (D. Colo. 2019), aff’d, 6 F.4th 1160 (10th Cir. 2021)
Questions presented
Whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
Clarence Thomas · Samuel Alito
Sonia Sotomayor · Elena Kagan
Neil Gorsuch · Brett Kavanaugh
Amy Coney Barrett · Ketanji Brown Jackson
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I, Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA)[1]

303 Creative LLC v. Elenis (Docket 21–476[2]) is a pending United States Supreme Court case related to the conflict between LGBT rights in public accommodations and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.


Lorie Smith is a website designer, running her business as 303 Creative, LLC. registered in Colorado. Smith had been developing websites for others and wanted to move into making wedding announcement websites. Smith claims it would have been against her Christian faith to make sites for non-heterosexual marriages. She wanted to post a notice on her business website to notify users of her unwillingness to create websites promoting same-sex marriages, and instead would refer gay patrons to other potential designers who may provide services to them.[3]

Before implementing the notice, Smith discovered that such a notice would violate the Colorado anti-discrimination state laws that were amended in 2008, which prevent public businesses from discriminating against gay people, as well as making statements to that effect. Smith, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, sued Colorado in 2016 in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, seeking to block enforcement of the anti-discrimination law. The district court waited for the result of the 2018 Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission which dealt with the same anti-discrimination law. As Masterpiece was ruled on narrow procedural grounds, finding that the Colorado agency that ruled against Phillips were unfairly hostile to his religious beliefs, the district court ruled against Smith in 2019. At that time, Colorado had not investigated Smith and there was no evidence that she had engaged in discrimination[4][5][6]

Smith appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which upheld the district court decision in a 2–1 ruling. In the majority ruling, the Tenth Circuit held the anti-discrimination law satisfied strict scrutiny under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, deepening a circuit split with decisions issued by the Arizona Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.[7] Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich dissented in the Tenth's decision, writing "the majority takes the remarkable — and novel — stance that the government may force Ms. Smith to produce messages that violate her conscience."[3]

Supreme Court[edit]

Smith filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which the Supreme Court granted in February 2022. While the petition asked whether Employment Division v. Smith should be overruled, the Supreme Court limited the case to the question of whether Colorado's law violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.[7] Unlike the previous decision in Masterpiece, where the court had a 5-4 majority of conservative justices, 303 Creative was heard under a 6-3 conservative majority following the retirement of Anthony Kennedy and death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, replaced with Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, respectively. This new court has been seen as more favorable to religious rights based on several key cases decided during previous terms.[5]

About 75 amicus briefs were submitted prior to oral hearings. Among those supporting Smith include 20 conservative-leaning states, law professors, several religious organizations, and libertarian leaning think tanks such as the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Cato Institute. Those supporting the state of Colorado include twenty other liberal states, the Biden administration, several law professors, and liberal-leaning groups such as Public Citizen, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.[5][8][9]

Oral hearings were held on December 5, 2022. Court observers believed the conservative majority would favor Smith in that she should not be compelled to write speech against her faith, but were concerned about where to draw a line so that other anti-discrimination laws would not be affected by their decision.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CO Rev Stat § 24-34-601 (2016) Discrimination in places of public accommodation. "It is a discriminatory practice and unlawful for a person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or deny to an individual or a group, because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin, or ancestry, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or, directly or indirectly, to publish, circulate, issue, display, post, or mail any written, electronic, or printed communication, notice, or advertisement that indicates that the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation will be refused, withheld from, or denied an individual or that an individual’s patronage or presence at a place of public accommodation is unwelcome, objectionable, unacceptable, or undesirable because of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin, or ancestry."
  2. ^ 21-476 303 CREATIVE LLC V. ELENIS
  3. ^ a b Liptak, Adam (February 22, 2022). "Supreme Court to Hear Case of Web Designer Who Objects to Same-Sex Marriage". The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  4. ^ Hurley, Lawrence (February 22, 2022). "U.S. Supreme Court takes up clash between religion and LGBT rights". Reuters. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Liptak, Adam (December 4, 2022). "A New Clash Between Faith and Gay Rights Arrives at a Changed Supreme Court". The New York Times. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
  6. ^ "Colorado web designer's First Amendment challenge will test the scope of state anti-discrimination laws". SCOTUSblog. December 2, 2022. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
  7. ^ a b Howe, Amy (February 22, 2022). "Justices will hear free-speech claim from website designer who opposes same-sex marriage". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  8. ^ Gresko, Jessica (December 2, 2022). "Both sides see high stakes in gay rights Supreme Court case". Associated Press. Retrieved December 2, 2022.
  9. ^ "303 Creative LLC v. Elenis". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
  10. ^ Chung, Andrew; Raymond, Nate (November 5, 2022). "U.S. Supreme Court leans toward web designer with anti-gay marriage stance". Reuters. Retrieved November 5, 2022.