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U.S. Supreme Court hears cases on LGBTQ discrimination and state control over elections

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Andrew Harnik
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The Supreme Court heard the case of a graphic artist from Littleton, Colo. who objected to designing wedding websites for gay couples on Monday.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard two major cases: one that could alter who has the authority to regulate federal elections, and another that addresses whether applying public accommodation laws to artists violates the First Amendment. What kind of impact could these cases potentially have?

The U.S. Supreme Court is having a busy week, hearing two major cases that could have a lasting impact on antidiscrimination law and gerrymandering.

On Monday, the nation's highest court heard the case of 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis. A Christian wedding website designer, Lorie Smith of Littleton, Colorado, does not want to create websites for gay couples, citing her faith. But in her home state, due to the Colorado Antidiscrimination Act, businesses cannot refuse customers on the basis of sexual orientation.

Allen Rostron, a law professor and interim associate dean of students at the UMKC School of Law, said it seems very likely the court will side in favor of Smith and her business. The court's current 6-3 conservative majority has been very supportive of religious freedom arguments.

"There was the case last year about a high school football coach, for example, who wanted to pray on the field," Rostron recalled. "There's been a decision about a church in Missouri and about Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, and they're not being excluded from government programs because they're religious in nature."

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard another case — one that would change who has the authority to regulate federal elections.

Moore v. Harper addresses the issue of whether state legislatures can regulate federal elections without any oversight from courts. It relies on the controversial idea known as the "independent state legislature theory," which claims the U.S. Constitution gives the authority to handle federal elections to a state's elected lawmakers.

Rostron thinks this case has the potential to be a "really big deal." If the U.S. Supreme Court sides with North Carolina Republicans, who brought the case, it could exacerbate the threat to American democracy by allowing state lawmakers to draw wildly partisan, gerrymandered congressional maps.

"If this decision was decided in favor of the independent state legislature theory," he said, "courts will never again have anything to be able to say about gerrymandering."

Rostron is less certain about how the court will side on this case.

"There's a six to three majority which is going to be inclined to take conservative positions, but this one's pretty ambitious and bold," Rostron said.

Allen Rostron joined KCUR's Up To Date to break down the specifics of these cases and the precedents they could set.

  • Allen Rostron, professor of law and interim associate dean of students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
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