The U.S. Supreme Court appeared Monday in favor of a website designer who refuses to design sites for same-sex marriages in the name of her freedom of expression and her Christian faith .
“For the first time in its history”, the Court could authorize a company “to refuse to serve a customer on the basis of race, sex, or religion”, noted with emotion the judge Sonia Sotomayor.
With her two progressive colleagues, the magistrate warned during the hearing against such a judgment, likely according to them to open the door to discrimination in any gender.
But the Court's six conservative judges seemed more receptive to the arguments of Lorie Smith, the boss of the company “303 creative” located in Colorado.
“I want to create unique sites to celebrate the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman,” she said from the steps of the Court. But “Colorado is trying to force me to (…) promote ideas contrary to my faith.”
This western American state has prohibited merchants from discriminating against their customers on the basis of their sexual orientation since 2008, on pain of a fine.
Ms Smith was not approached by a gay couple nor prosecuted by the authorities, but she lodged a complaint against the law as a preventive measure. After losing in an appeals court, she turned to the Supreme Court.
Not the first time that the high court, which recognized the right to same-sex marriage in 2015, is called upon to arbitrate between sexual minorities and Christian traders.
In 2018, she agreed with a pastry chef who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. But it had based its decision on additional grounds without enacting major principles.
Since then, Donald Trump has consolidated his conservative majority and the Court could render, by June 30, a judgment within the scope wider.
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The White House has called on her for restraint. “There is no reason to change the current balance”, said his spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre during a press briefing.
The Democratic administration believes that all Americans “have a right to equal access to society, which includes products and services” for sale in the country, she added.
During the hearing, Lorie Smith's lawyer argued that it was not about homophobic discrimination, but about defending the freedom of expression of an “artist”.
“Ms. Smith has LGBT clients,” pleaded Kristen Waggoner, also president of the Christian legal group “Alliance Defending Freedom”. But she does not want to be forced to “send a message” contrary to her values.
The law does not relate to the content of the products, but obliges to offer them to all customers, retorted the Colorado lawyer Eric Olson.
For him, Mrs. Smith could very well adorn her websites with biblical messages about marriage “between a man and a woman”, but cannot refuse to sell them to homosexual couples.
Conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett was not convinced. Ms Smith refuses to produce marriage sites for heterosexuals who are divorced or have committed adultery so “it's the message, not the sexual orientation of the couple that counts”, said the magistrate.
< strong>“Interracial Marriages”
His colleague Samuel Alito for his part defended “honorable people who oppose same-sex marriage”, refusing to compare them to those who opposed marriage between black and white Americans in the past.
“Historically, opposition to interracial marriages and integration have often been justified on religious grounds,” retorted African-American Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
And ask if a mall photographer, intent on recreating the 1950s vibe, could be allowed to refuse to sit black children on Santa's lap?
“What if anyone thinks that people with disabilities should not marry? Where is the limit?” added Sonia Sotomayor.
“Hairdressers, gardeners, plumbers (…) cannot invoke the First Amendment to decline gay marriages, but it's different for artists,” replied conciliatory conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh.
For him, the Court could therefore content itself with answering a limited question: “Are site designers like restorers or publishers?” < /p>