In one of the most anticipated decisions of the term, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 last month that the government cannot compel speech or force citizens to violate their consciences in the name of civil rights. 

In 303 Creative v. Elenis, Colorado graphic designer Lorie Smith argued that the state cannot use its anti-discrimination law to compel her to create wedding websites for same-sex weddings. Smith is a devout Christian who gladly serves LGBT clients, but whose faith prevents her from endorsing certain practices, such as same-sex marriage. 

This was not a hypothetical threat on Colorado’s part. In fact, the state’s Civil Rights Commission made it clear in court filings that they had every intention of forcing Smith to comply with the law. Moreover, Colorado has already used the law to punish other religious creatives, including baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who won his case before the Supreme Court in 2018 on the grounds that the commission demonstrated anti-religious bias against him.

303 Creative finished what Masterpiece Cakeshop started. Writing for the Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch notes that “the First Amendment protects an individual’s right to speak his mind regardless of whether the government considers his speech sensible and well intentioned or deeply ‘misguided.’” 

“Colorado seeks to force an individual to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance,” Gorsuch continued. “As this court has long held, the opportunity to think for ourselves and to express those thoughts freely is among our most cherished liberties and part of what keeps our republic strong.”

It would seem that few on the Left have bothered to read Gorsuch’s opinion, since they’ve spent the past few weeks attempting to portray 303 Creative as something it’s not. A headline from CNN after the decision was released read, “Supreme Court limits LGBTQ protections with ruling in favor of Christian web designer.” The Associated Press similarly wrote, “The Supreme Court rules for a designer who doesn’t want to make wedding websites for gay couples.”

But these headlines have it wrong. This case was not about whether religious business owners can deny services to LGBT people or whether creatives can use their religious beliefs to turn customers away. The core question in 303 Creative was whether the government can compel speech by creative professionals. The Court ruled that Colorado can no more force Lorie Smith to create a website celebrating a same-sex wedding than it can force a gay website designer to create a website promoting legislation to ban gay marriage. Either way, creative products are a form of speech that the government cannot control.  

 The First Amendment doesn’t just protect Lorie Smith’s right to speak according to her convictions; it also protects the Democratic speechwriter, the abortion activist, and the Muslim photographer from being forced by the government to abandon their principles. As Justice Gorsuch put it, “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.” 

That’s why every American, regardless of their sexual orientation, religious background, or political affiliation, should be thankful the Court ruled the way it did.