‘Difficult To Read’: Neil Gorsuch Ruthlessly Mocks Sotomayor’s Dissent In Free Speech Case

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Kate Anderson Contributor
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Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch blasted his colleague Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent of his majority opinion that ruled in favor of a Christian web designer’s right to not design websites for same-sex weddings.

Sotomayor claimed in her dissent, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, that the court’s Friday opinion had 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,” according to the text for the case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. Gorsuch mocked Sotomayor for her long-winded dissent that “reimagines the facts” in his majority opinion. (RELATED: Supreme Court Sides With Christian Web Designer)

“In some places, the dissent gets so turned around about the facts that it opens fire on its own position,” Gorsuch wrote. “For instance: While stressing that a Colorado company cannot refuse ‘the full and equal enjoyment of [its] services” based on a customer’s protected status,’ the dissent assures us that a company selling creative services “to the public” does have a right ‘to decide what messages to include or not to include.’ But if that is true, what are we even debating? Instead of addressing the parties’ stipulations about the case actually before us, the dissent spends much of its time adrift on a sea of hypotheticals about photographers, stationers, and others, asking if they too provide expressive services covered by the First Amendment.”

The case involved plaintiff Lorie Smith, who sued Colorado in 2016 for its laws that would require her to create a website for a same-sex wedding, arguing it violated her religious beliefs and right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

Gorsuch leveled Sotomayor’s claims that the majority’s opinion takes away immense strides made by the gay community, according to the text. He noted that “there is much to applaud” on that issue, but stressed that the dissent’s concerns do not answer “the question we face today: Can a State force someone who provides her own expressive services to abandon her conscience and speak its preferred message instead?”

“When the dissent finally gets around to that question— more than halfway into its opinion—it reimagines the facts of this case from top to bottom,” Gorsuch argued. “The dissent claims that Colorado wishes to regulate Ms. Smith’s ‘conduct,’ not her speech … The dissent chides us for deciding a pre-enforcement challenge … The dissent suggests (over and over again) that any burden on speech here is ‘incidental.’ All despite the Tenth Circuit’s finding that Colorado intends to force Ms. Smith to convey a message she does not believe with the ‘very purpose’ of ‘[e]liminating . . . ideas’ that differ from its own.'”

Gorsuch also pointed out that his colleagues’ claims that his ruling had created a right for “the first time in history” to refuse service to a “protected class” was false since Smith is still required by law to work with anyone “regardless of sexual orientation,” according to the text. He further explained that the dissent would have required the “Court do something truly novel” by allowing the government to force an individual to “speak contrary to her beliefs on a significant issue of personal conviction.”

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