PERRY: The art of turning gay victims into the foes of straight perpetrators

Lorie Smith, a Christian graphic artist and website designer in Colorado, center in pink, walks out of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, after her case was heard before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is hearing the case of Smith who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples, that’s the latest clash of religion and gay rights to land at the highest court. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

No matter how you feel about equity for lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and queer people, it’s easy to shrug off the latest Supreme Court frolic because the case seems so hackneyed.

Littleton web designer Lorie Smith is suing Colorado so she can make nuptial websites — for straight couples only.

If you’re like a lot of people, LGTBQ or not, it’s easy to wonder why something that seems so inconsequential should be worth worrying about, even if it takes up time inside the Supreme Court and a lot of headlines.

It’s confusing because it’s not apparent that something as trivial sounding as a frustrated wedding website fabricator is something much more. It’s actually a chilling story about a bigot who wants to use her business to discriminate against gays and lesbians, but Colorado law won’t let her.

Of course Smith and the bigots who back her don’t see it that way.

She says her brand of Christian beliefs causes her to be “offended” by men marrying men, and women marrying women. She points out, however, that she doesn’t consider herself a homophobic bigot because, as a web designer, she’s taken money from gays and lesbians to create websites that aren’t about gay marriage. One time, she recalled, she used her artistic muse to work with a gay person to create a website for a dog shelter.

It’s OK, in her corner of Christianity, for a gay man to care deeply about dogs, just not other gay men.

Her flavor of Christianity permits taking gay dollars to spark her divine cooperation with gay existence, just not gay equality.

You can see where this becomes easy to shrug about.

If Smith hadn’t said anything and sued the state, it’s pretty likely no one would ever have known that she yearns to toil for just the right nogin-to-nogin mist shot for the next wedding website, knowing, however, that her Christian homophobic sensibilities are locked and loaded, if anyone had cared to ask her to resister

There’s more to this, however. Much more.

Smith, and her lawyers, say her website design business isn’t the kind of endeavor that state anti-discrimination law actually addresses. Colorado, like most states, has a “public accommodation” law that says businesses can’t discriminate against race, religion — or sexual orientation, because it’s bigotry. There are still a lot of people, some of them also Christians, who think bigotry is not just wrong, but it’s bad business.

It’s what prevents bigots who own or run gas stations or motels from telling Black, gay or immigrant people, “we don’t serve your kind.”

In states like Colorado, bigots with businesses can’t legally shun serving Black people, or any people, because their Christian religious faith teaches them that Black people, inter-racial couples, or people who wear hijabs are the work of Satan. It doesn’t matter if their god tells them that the “others” are biblically destined to be enslaved or worthy of some heavenly smite.

Smith and her lawyers say wedding website design is different, and that offensive smiting is warranted.

They equate Smith’s choosing fonts, clipart and background vectors as an artistic expression, much like a poet, a novelist, a violinist or a portrait painter. Smith implies that background pics of the happy couple are religiously repugnant when the engagement-ring shot is close-up of nothing but man hands.

This is where the clients fish into the deepest reaches of her artistic soul, which is connected to her Christian soul, which is offended by two women saying, “I do” to each other. It’s OK for a lesbian woman to say “I do” to give permission to swipe her card for the cost of the website focusing on helping orphaned children.

For far longer than this dust-up, straight people have been fine with taking gay money, just not to express rights and rituals reserved for straight people.

The argument at the Supreme Court made it clear that if picking and uploading stock art and selfies is an artistic expression protected by the First Amendment, even when it’s naked bigotry, then it will be easy for other “artists” to get their gigs protected by the First Amendment, too.

A win, court liberals argue, could result in bigots behind the cameras at the shopping mall’s North Pole refusing to snap minority kids perched on Santa’s lap — if the camera dude’s Christian religion was offended by Black kids marring the quintessentially white-guy holiday meme.

Of course, Santa’s little racist helper could file a preventative lawsuit. Elfie might one day feel the urge to yank a brown kid off Santa’s lap, should the spirit move him. No doubt such a prophylactic lawsuit would offer keen incentives for like-minded parents, also wanting a “traditional” mall Santa experience. 

All this fuss over manufacturing inspired wedding websites and forcing vile “woke” religious beliefs obscures the fact that, despite the theatrics, this Littleton website maker is not the victim here.

The victims are LGTBQ people who were shot dead in Colorado Springs, just because they’re not straight. The victims are targets of Colorado Republican Congressowman Lauren Boebert’s Twitter account, when she derides transgender children and those who support them.

You wouldn’t expect worrisome cases like this to keep cropping up in a state where the popular, openly gay governor and his husband are quietly raising a family like millions of others of people who get married and raise families in Colorado.

But some people are increasingly afraid that ensuring equal rights for people who are gay, Black, trans or from very far away causes them to lose an equal ration of privilege or due.

Too bad. Smith and people like her are missing out on seeing people she cares about or even total strangers marvel in the uniqueness of human relationships and the economics of a blow-out wedding.

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Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown
1 month ago

Bigotry is protected by the First Amendment, Dave. In a free country, we respect everyone’s right to express or NOT express their beliefs and opinion.

Those who believe the core 1st amendment issue here is trivial should understand that MANY Americans would respectfully disagree, and you shouldn’t label us as bigots for simply siding with the web designer on constitutional grounds.

Sorry but you can’t force someone into a contract while also respecting their rights to expression and religion. This isn’t China.

Bart Emanuel
Bart Emanuel
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Brown

You do understand that 1. this bigot has never had anything “forced” on her and 2. you are advocating for a change that would allow people to be refused service based on not just their sexuality, race, and other immutable characteristics, right?

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
1 month ago
Reply to  Bart Emanuel

What’s the problem? Your team and my team should avoid associating with each other as much as possible, especially if this brings about the political split that’s so desperately needed.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago

Your contempt for Christians and your disrespect for her web design artistry drips off the virtual page. None of it, though, builds your case to force an artist to create communication that misaligns with her convictions. Curious if your Sentinel staff would be eager to design and publish a recruitment ad for a completely legal entity such as Oath Keepers.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
1 month ago

The double standard is the point. “Intoleration of movements from the right and toleration of movements from the left” has been the keystone of their ideology for over 50 years. And when the inverse takes place, they squeal and run to their commissars in the government to force their enemies to comply.

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
1 month ago

You mean, of course, for the Oath Keepers who aren’t in jail already. Or going there.