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FIRE statement on the Supreme Court decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis

Exterior view of the United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2023

Jack Gruber / USA TODAY

Exterior view of the United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2023.

Today’s decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis is a resounding victory for freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. The Court’s opinion reaffirms decades of precedent protecting our First Amendment rights to speak and think free of government compulsion. 

Freedom of conscience is a fundamental individual right: The First Amendment protects our right not to speak, too, and the government cannot force Americans to voice its preferred message on pain of punishment. Today’s decision recognizes that just as the First Amendment protects students in our public schools from discipline for refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag, so too does it protect the right of artists to voice only those messages they wish to express, without risking government-imposed fines and “remedial training.”

To cast the decision as a “loss” for LGBTQ rights is a mistake that both misreads the facts and ignores the vital importance of freedom of conscience for all Americans. As the Court makes clear, nothing in today’s decision allows businesses like restaurants or movie theaters to refuse service to customers on the basis of protected class status. While the First Amendment “does not protect status-based discrimination unrelated to expression,” wrote Justice Gorsuch for the majority, “generally it does protect a speaker’s right to control her own message — even when we may disapprove of the speaker’s motive or the message itself.” 

We are pleased by the Court’s recognition of the necessity of an evenhanded, unfailing commitment to free expression, without regard to the speaker’s viewpoint. As Justice Gorsuch wrote: “A commitment to speech for only some messages and some persons is no commitment at all.” FIRE could not agree more.

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