Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday slammed the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a Christian web designer in Colorado who refuses to create websites to celebrate same-sex weddings out of religious objections, saying the case was designed “for the clear purpose of chipping away” at LGBTQ equality.
“It’s very revealing that there’s no evidence that this web designer was ever even approached by anyone asking for a website for a same-sex wedding,” Buttigieg, the first out Cabinet secretary confirmed by the Senate, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority, in a 6-3 opinion, ruled Friday for Lorie Smith, the Colorado web designer, on free speech grounds, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing, “All manner of speech – from ‘pictures, films, paintings, drawings, and engravings,’ to ‘oral utterance and the printed word’ – qualify for the First Amendment’s protections.”
Smith said in court filings that a man had inquired about her services for his same-sex wedding. But as CNN previously reported, the man in question says that he never reached out to Smith – and that he’s straight and married to a woman.
“There’s something in common between this Supreme Court ruling and what we’re seeing happening in state legislatures across the country, which is kind of a solution looking for a problem,” Buttigieg said Sunday. “In other words, sending these kinds of things to the courts and sending these kinds of things to state legislatures for the clear purpose of chipping away at the equality and the rights that have so recently been won in the LGBTQ+ community.”
Two contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination took a different stance on the Supreme Court ruling in separate interviews Sunday on “State of the Union.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the decision “protects all of our First Amendment rights,” adding that “the government doesn’t have the right to tell a business the nature of how they need to use their expressive abilities.”
Former Texas Rep. Will Hurd acknowledged that the ruling made him “uncomfortable because we’re protecting speech that I don’t agree with. And I don’t agree with an anti-LGBTQ sentiment.”
“But we have to be protecting the speech even if we don’t like or agree with the speech. That’s a foundational element in our country,” Hurd said.
In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested that the court’s decision in the Colorado case would be more far-reaching.
“The decision’s logic cannot be limited to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” she wrote.
“The decision threatens to balkanize the market and to allow the exclusion of other groups from many services,” Sotomayor said, adding that “a website designer could equally refuse to create a wedding website for an interracial couple, for example.”
Christie pushed back Sunday on that characterization.
“What Sonia Sotomayor … was saying in her opinion was that … this decision could be used to deny people of LGBTQ backgrounds the ability to access this business. That’s simply not true,” he told Bash.
“They can access this business. They just can’t force the owner to do something that is against her personal religious beliefs. And so, if they want to come in and they want a web design for their business, they want a web design for a charity, they want a web design for anything else that they’re doing, they could certainly do that,” he added.
Meanwhile, Buttigieg was asked about a recent video shared by a campaign Twitter account for Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential bid that attacked rival Donald Trump over his past promises to protect LGBTQ rights and highlighted measures championed by the Florida governor to curb such protections.
After cautioning that he was “going to choose my words carefully, partly because I’m appearing as secretary, so I can’t talk about campaigns,” Buttigieg said the bigger issue when sees such videos was: “Who are you trying to help? Who are you trying to make better off?”
“I just don’t understand the mentality of somebody who gets up in the morning thinking that he’s going to prove his worth by competing over who can make life hardest for a hard-hit community that is already so vulnerable in America,” the secretary said.
The DeSantis campaign has come under criticism for marking the end of Pride Month by re-posting the video from the DeSantis War Room Twitter account. Both Christie and Hurd on Sunday also criticized the sharing of the video.
In response to the online criticism, Christina Pushaw, the rapid response director for the DeSantis campaign, said Pride Month was “unnecessary, divisive, pandering.”
“Opposing the federal recognition of ‘Pride Month’ isn’t homophobic,” Pushaw said in a tweet. “We wouldn’t support a month to celebrate straight people for sexual orientation, either.”