This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear a case about whether asking businesses to comply with nondiscrimination laws violates people’s free speech rights. The court continues to really, truly go for it.
The case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, involves Colorado website designer Lorie Smith, who objects to gay marriage and says the state’s anti-discrimination laws shouldn’t force her to accept same-sex clients who want wedding web sites. Notably, Smith doesn’t even make wedding websites yet, but she claims to want to, so she preemptively sued the state, with the help of the rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom.
Currently, there’s a Colorado law that says that businesses open to the public can’t discriminate against gay people or post statements that they would do so. This case gives the court another shot at a question it ducked in 2018's Masterpiece Cakeshop, a narrow ruling that didn’t determine whether Colorado violated the free speech rights of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern argues that the 303 Creative case isn’t just an opportunity for the court to roll back LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination laws, but it could imperil all kinds of civil rights. A broad ruling, for example, could allow businesses to refuse to serve customers who are Black or Muslim.
The high court will hear the case in the upcoming October term, which is already set to be a blockbuster session rife with challenges to both voting rights and affirmative action in schools. Of course, that’s on top of the pending decisions for the term that ends this June, including the abortion case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, an almost 50-year-old precedent.
Bloomberg’s Supreme Court reporter Greg Stohr provided a helpful—and very fucking bleak—list:
The court has clearly declared YOLO and is openly ready to take a wrecking ball to—deep breath—reproductive rights, sexual privacy, gun control, the powers of the EPA to fight climate change, secular schools, affirmative action, LGBTQ rights, and voting rights. None of these positions are popular, but what do you expect from an institution where judges are nominated and confirmed by anti-majoritarian means?
It’s a conservative wish list that Chief Justice John Roberts probably agrees with, though maybe he would have attacked in a more incremental, methodical fashion. Though, Roberts’ vote doesn’t much matter anymore after Justice Amy Coney Barrett replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg and flipped the court to a 6-3 conservative supermajority. (It only takes four votes to hear a case and 5 to decide one.) With Barrett, the ultraconservative bloc—including Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh—is now acting like a python unhinging its jaw to swallow an entire deer that’s in front of it rather than letting it go to waste.
Hey, gotta use that 6-3 majority while it lasts.