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Post Supreme Court ruling, Colo. anti-discrimination law will be tested in new ways


Colorado lawmakers expect new legal challenges that will test the state's anti-discrimination laws - this after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed a web designer from Colorado to refuse her services to gay couples. Colorado Public Radio's Allison Sherry reports.

ALLISON SHERRY, BYLINE: Lorie Smith sued the state because she wanted to start making wedding websites, but not for gay weddings. State anti-discrimination laws say she can't make that distinction. The high court disagreed, saying a creative business can't be forced to craft messages they don't believe in. Smith says the case wasn't about who she would or wouldn't work for, but what she was being asked to say.


LORIE SMITH: And today's ruling affirmed that the government cannot force anyone to say something they don't believe.

PHIL WEISER: Historically, in Colorado, for over 100 years, if you're a business and you open up your doors, you have to serve everybody.

SHERRY: Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

WEISER: Now we have this exception. People may take advantage of this exception.

SHERRY: Weiser, whose office defended Colorado's anti-discrimination laws before the high court, says its decision creates a big loophole nationwide. He says there's nothing immediately to be done legally, but he's watching out for businesses that may use the Supreme Court decision as an excuse to discriminate against anyone. A problem, Weiser says, is that the court didn't exactly define what a creative business is.

WEISER: It could be a photographer who says I won't photograph women because I don't believe they should work or a religious bookseller who says I won't sell to one religious group 'cause I don't think they're a real religion. Those cases will have to get determined. Ultimately, I don't believe this ruling is sustainable. I don't believe it's justified. So I believe it will be overturned eventually.

SHERRY: At a recent press conference, Shara Smith says when she first read the high court decision, she thought it was bad for LGBTQ populations and then thought as a Black woman and head of Colorado's Interfaith Alliance that the decision is bad for her too.


SHARA SMITH: It's also bad for people of color, for immigrants, for marginalized groups, for all of us, because this decision allows businesses to use free speech in order to turn away customers they would rather not serve.

SHERRY: Legal experts expect civil lawsuits across the country as states grapple with whether a business qualifies as creative enough to turn away clients for free speech reasons or whether they're just plain discriminating, which is still technically against the law.

For NPR News, I'm Alison Sherry in Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Allison Sherry