by Joe Siegel
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on June 30 that sent shock waves through the LGBTQ community.
In a 6 to 3 vote, the court ruled that Colorado violated a graphic designer’s freedom of speech over its nondiscrimination law. The court’s three liberal justices were in the minority. The case is known as 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion, “Like many States, Colorado has a law forbidding businesses from engaging in discrimination when they sell goods and services to the public. Laws along these lines have done much to secure the civil rights of all Americans. But in this particular case Colorado does not just seek to ensure the sale of goods or services on equal terms. It seeks to use its law to compel an individual to create speech she does not believe.”
Writing in the dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “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.”
The editors of LGBTQ publications are pondering what impact the court’s decision will have on them.
“I don’t think we understand the full scope of this ruling,” said Kevin Naff, editor of the Washington Blade in the nation’s capital. “It threatens to undermine decades of civil rights protections, not just for LGBTQ Americans but people of color, Jewish and Muslim Americans, and more. This right-wing activist and illegitimate court is reordering our society in chilling ways.”
“I believe that this vague ruling is setting a dangerous precedent,” said Gwendolyn D. Clemons, CEO of Memphis, Tenn.-based TUV Media, which publishes The Unleashed Voice Magazine.
“I’m still reading up on what the new law covers because there seems to be some questions as to what they can actually deny,” Clemons noted. “In actuality, if services are denied to us I will gladly walk away. As a consumer I would never demand from a business that’s anti-LGBTQ and make it known that they are.”
“This decision would impact LGBTQ businesses and nonprofits, including newspapers, in the work we do,” said Tracy Baim, co-founder of Chicago’s Windy City Times. “That might include a printer, a delivery company, an advertising firm, or a myriad of other vendors we work with, all who could simply refuse to do business with us.”
“The Supreme Court’s decision … is unsettling but unsurprising,” said Jason Villemez, editor of Philadelphia Gay News. “It leaves LGBTQ people — especially those living in rural and suburban areas — vulnerable to even more discrimination than they already face.”
“The decision is yet another wake-up call for LGBTQ advocates and allies to the methodical, effective tactics that right-wing groups use to erode our rights,” said Villemez. “As far as the decision’s impact on LGBTQ media, I’m not overly concerned. LGBTQ journalists have always found ways to do our jobs and bring information to our community. If a Christian publishing company were to refuse to print an LGBTQ newspaper, I have no doubt that the staff of that newspaper would find a solution. Our community has always had to get creative, especially in times of crisis. We make things happen because the fight for equality demands it of us.”
Tammye Nash, managing editor of Dallas Voice, had a different take. “I think this ruling could definitely have serious repercussions for LGBTQ media. It absolutely opens the door for so-called ‘Christian’ companies to refuse to work with LGBTQ media — in printing, in web design and maintenance and more.
“For example, each year for Pride Month, we have ‘swag’ created with the Dallas Voice logo printed on it,” Nash continued. “Obviously, we always make sure we are dealing with an LGBTQ-owned or -friendly business. But there is the chance that businesses that have been ‘friendly’ might not be so friendly after all if they think they don’t have to be. And maybe all it takes is one person in management to decide that printing Dallas Voice or OUT North Texas or some of our swag goes against their ‘Christian’ beliefs. Or any religious belief for that matter.”