In the Supreme Court term that begins in October, Justice Amy Coney Barrett will hear a case involving the right to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people -- and the woman who brought the case is represented by a far-right group to which Barrett has close ties.
The court will hear the case of 303 Creative v. Elenis, in which a Colorado web designer wishes to preemptively refuse to design wedding sites for same-sex couples. The designer, Lorie Smith, wants to expand her wedding business but include a statement that she will serve only opposite-sex couples.
Smith had filed suit in 2016 to challenge Colorado's LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law, which covers public accommodations such as her business. A trial court dismissed her suit in 2019, and a federal appeals court upheld that dismissal in 2021. She then appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed in February to take the case. A date for the hearing hasn't been set.
Smith is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization that specializes in fighting for conservative religious causes, especially opposition to LGBTQ+ rights and to abortion rights. It represented Colorado baker Jack Phillips in a case that reached the Supreme Court in 2017, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Phillips had refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, saying that would infringe on his rights to free speech and freedom of religion. In 2018, the high court threw out the commission's decision that Phillips had committed illegal discrimination, as the justices said the commission hadn't shown sufficient respect for his religious beliefs, but the court did not establish a broad right to discriminate.
Before Barrett became a Supreme Court justice, she did five paid speaking engagements, beginning in 2011, for the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a program of the ADF. The fellowship seeks to promote a "distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law," according to tax documents cited by The Washington Post.
During her Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 2020, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont questioned Barrett about her association with Blackstone and the ADF. "Whether you believe being gay is right or wrong is irrelevant to me, but my concern is you worked with an organization working to criminalize people for loving a person that they're in love with," he said, noting that the ADF supported the recriminalization of gay sex in India. Barrett said her Blackstone lectures were on constitutional law and had nothing to do with any type of discrimination.
In the hearings, Barrett was evasive about many of her views, including her thoughts on marriage equality and abortion rights. Once on the Supreme Court, she, as expected, ruled against abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a decision that upheld a restrictive Mississippi law and overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that had guaranteed abortion rights nationwide. She has also sided with religious plaintiffs in rulings that threaten to weaken the separation of church and state.
Before joining the Supreme Court, Barrett was a federal judge and a law professor at Notre Dame University, and she has ties to other far-right religious groups in addition to the ADF.