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Same-Sex Marriage: US Supreme Court Sides with Religious Freedom, Limits LGBQT Protections

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WASHINGTON DC, USA — In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favour of a Christian web designer based in Colorado who refused to create websites celebrating same-sex marriages, citing religious objections.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, authored the majority decision, was supported by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas.

On the other side, Justice Sonia Sotomayor penned a dissent joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

This ruling, announced on Friday, June 30, 2023, is seen as a significant setback for LGBTQ rights, which had been bolstered in recent years by several key decisions, including a 2020 ruling, also authored by Justice Gorsuch, that expanded workplace protections for LGBTQ individuals, and the historic 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage across the country.

The decision was grounded in free speech and has implications for state public accommodation laws, particularly for businesses involved in selling “expressive” goods.

It marks another victory for religious conservatives at the Supreme Court, raising concerns among critics who fear that the court may be aiming to overturn the 2015 same-sex marriage ruling.

Justice Gorsuch, in the majority opinion, emphasized the importance of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech, stating that “the First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands.” He accused Colorado of attempting to “deny that promise.”

He further stated that various forms of speech, ranging from pictures and oral utterances to printed words, qualify for First Amendment protection, including speech communicated through the internet.

In contrast, Justice Sotomayor, in her dissent, argued that the ruling undermines the government’s critical interest in ensuring that all Americans have equal access to public services.

“Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class,” she wrote.

She further mentioned that the court’s decision bestows a “license to discriminate” on businesses, signifying a symbolic and actual demotion of gays and lesbians to second-class status.

Justice Sotomayor expressed concern regarding the stigmatization and harm inflicted by the decision, stating, “The opinion of the Court is, quite literally, a notice that reads: ‘Some services may be denied to same-sex couples.’”

She described this as a “sad day in American constitutional law and the lives of LGBT people.”

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