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Christian web designer told Supreme Court she couldn’t make wedding websites. That’s not true.

Lorie Smith at a press conference on December 5, 2022
Lorie Smith at a press conference on December 5, 2022 Photo: Screenshot

Lorie Smith, the Christian web designer who recently won a Supreme Court victory because she argued that Colorado’s anti-discrimination law made her too afraid to make heterosexual wedding websites and thus curtailed her freedom of speech, has been caught in another lie: she actually did make a wedding website for a straight couple named Matt and Hollie Cortez.

Last month, Smith won her case in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, with the Supreme Court ruling that some businesses have a free speech right to violate state anti-discrimination laws if such laws would compel them to engage in speech they disagree with. A middling web designer, Smith said that she wanted to get into the wedding website business but only work with straight couples because she “believes that God is calling her to promote and celebrate His design for marriage… between one man and one woman only.”

That the Supreme Court took up the case when Smith hadn’t actually been approached by a same-sex couple to make them a wedding website, nor had Colorado investigated or punished her under its anti-discrimination law, led to criticism of the Court for hearing a case where nothing had happened. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the anti-LGBTQ+ hate group that represented Smith, argued that the mere fact that the law existed was enough to prove her standing in the case since she was too afraid to make a wedding website for anyone, thus already stifling her free speech.

But a legal researcher has dug up a website that Smith made for a heterosexual couple that she previously linked on 303 Creative’s website to show some of her prior work. An archived copy of the site shows a stock image of feet and the names “Matt Cortez & Hollie Cortez” across the top. The site has tabs like “You’re invited” and “Accommodations” and “Schedule,” and Smith labeled that site “Cortez wedding.”

The New Republic points out that the Cortez wedding website is no longer featured on 303 Creative’s site and that it was “removed some time before she filed a legal challenge” in 2016 when she claimed that she couldn’t make any wedding websites because she was afraid of the consequences of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.

“Ms. Smith’s speech has been chilled,” one of her lawyers told the Supreme Court in oral arguments in 2022. “For six years, she has been unable to speak in the marketplace.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” Columbia Law School legal historian Kate Redburn, who is researching 303 Creative and found the archived website, said. “The idea that she hadn’t made any wedding websites for anyone was so baked into the narrative around this case.”

Smith admitted to The New Republic that she made the Cortez wedding website and said that it was a gift for a family member. ADF said on Twitter that Smith didn’t “advertise or offer to create WEDDING WEBSITES for the general public” and that she included the wedding website on her professional website “to illustrate her design skills” but not to offer wedding websites as a service.

The archived version of her website, though, does nothing to distinguish between previous websites she made just to show her skills and websites she was willing to make for prospective clients. It’s hard to imagine a client looking at 303 Creative’s website and knowing that Smith was willing to make websites for, say, churches and political candidates but not weddings, since they’re all shown together under the heading “Recent Website Projects,” just below a paragraph saying that 303 Creative will make websites “Whether you’re looking for an extensive 50-page website, or a simple 5-page website.”

This isn’t the first time that Smith has been caught telling untruths to potentially bolster her court case and make it seem like she was a victim. Last month a reporter at The New Republic investigated a man named “Stewart” who supposedly had a fiance named “Mike” and requested a wedding website from Smith, according to Smith’s court filings.

The reporter called Stewart and asked him about the case. He said this was “the very first time I’ve heard of it.” He also said that he’s married to a woman.

“If somebody’s pulled my information, as some kind of supporting information or documentation, somebody’s falsified that,” he said. “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.”

Also, it turns out that Stewart is a web designer himself. He said that he’s known in design circles because he has spoken at conferences and on podcasts and is an avid social media user, but that he had never heard of Smith.

“I wouldn’t want anybody to… make me a wedding website?” he told Grant. He also lives in San Francisco, making it even more strange that he would ask a relatively unknown designer in Colorado to make him a website.

ADF insisted that they didn’t make up Stewart and Mike and suggested that it was “the more likely scenario” that “‘Stewart’ or another activist did in fact submit the request,” even though Smith and possibly fellow Christian conservatives were the only people who would benefit from making several courts believe that a gay couple requested Smith make them a website.

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