Turns Out the Supreme Court’s Gay Wedding Website Case May Be Based on a Lie

Lorie Smith has never made wedding websites, but she claims she was asked to by a gay couple. New reporting suggests the request was bogus.

Turns Out the Supreme Court’s Gay Wedding Website Case May Be Based on a Lie
Lorie Smith speaks outside the Supreme Court after arguments in the case 303 Creative v. Elenis on December 5, 2022. Screenshot:Vimeo/ADF Media Relations (Fair Use)

Update 6/30/23, 12pm: The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Lorie Smith’s favor, opening a Pandora’s box of discrimination.

The Supreme Court is set to deliver a ruling Friday—the final day of the term—about whether state anti-discrimination laws violate the First Amendment right to free speech. The decision could be a civil rights nightmare by allowing businesses open to the public to refuse to serve people based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation. The case at issue was already shady, but new reporting suggests it’s even more questionable than we knew.

Lorie Smith is a Colorado website designer who, importantly, has never made wedding websites. However, she filed a lawsuit claiming that she wants to, but, because she opposes marriage equality, she disagrees with a state law that would make her accept gay clients. To be clear: This means Smith had not gotten in trouble with the state, she merely feared potential consequences down the line. She should not have standing to sue, but here we are. The court isn’t hearing the case on religious grounds, rather on free speech grounds, specifically whether state laws “compel an artist to speak or stay silent.” (Smith’s business name is 303 Creative; the case is 303 Creative v. Elenis.)

In legal filings, Smith claimed that a man named Stewart contacted her on September 21, 2016, to do some wedding design work for him and his fiancé, Mike. On Thursday, the New Republic reported that the request was bogus—they contacted Stewart and he said he is straight, married to a woman (and was even in 2016), and never contacted Smith. And the timing is also suspect: Stewart’s purported request came in less than 24 hours after Smith first filed her lawsuit in state court.

Stewart’s name, phone number, email, and website are listed on the 303 Creative inquiry form cited in filings, including at the Supreme Court. Stewart, whom the New Republic is identifying only by his first name, told the outlet, “If somebody’s pulled my information, as some kind of supporting information or documentation, somebody’s falsified that.” He continued: “I wouldn’t want anybody to…make me a wedding website? I’m married, I have a child—I’m not really sure where that came from? But somebody’s using false information in a Supreme Court filing document.”

In fact, her lawyers did not mention “Stewart’s” request until months later. It first came up in February 2017, when her lawyers wrote in response to defense motions, “Notably, any claim that Lorie will never receive a request to create a custom website celebrating a same-sex ceremony is no longer legitimate because Lorie has received such a request.” Smith said in a sworn statement that “Stewart” made a request through the contact form on her site.

Smith is suing with the help of the rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, which is also behind the lawsuit that overturned Roe v. Wade; the active litigation over the abortion pill; and an ongoing case in which it argues that transgender girls shouldn’t be allowed to play on girls’ sports teams. Alliance Defending Freedom did not respond to the New Republic’s requests for comment.

There’s a bigger problem here. Since Smith has never designed a wedding website, and has thereby never actually turned away an LGBTQ couple, that means the court and the public only heard her views, not those of the people she wants to discriminate against. In previous cases like 2018’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, there were two parties: the business owner (Jack Phillips, also represented by ADF) and the people denied service (Charlie Craig and David Mullin). Craig and Mullin spoke to reporters who shared their story with the country. For Smith, it’s certainly convenient to file a preemptive lawsuit so people really only get to hear one side.

The court should dismiss this case on the grounds that Smith doesn’t have standing to sue—but you can’t expect much from this 6-3 conservative supermajority, so now we wait.

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