A look ahead at two cases before the Supreme Court this week

The Supreme Court will hear two cases this week — Creative v. Elenis and Moore v. Harper — that have the potential to reshape anti-discrimination laws and the future of federal elections nationwide. John Yang joins Geoff Bennett to discuss.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    Two cases before the Supreme Court this coming week have the potential to reshape anti-discrimination laws and federal elections nationwide. One case on Monday poses the question of whether a website designer in Colorado can refuse to create a wedding website for a same sex couple, despite state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    The other case being heard on Wednesday asks whether the U.S. Constitution gives absolute power beyond the reach of state courts and other laws to a state legislature to regulate federal elections. John Yang is here and joins us now for a closer look. It's good to see you.

  • John Yang:

    Great to be here, Geoff.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    So let's start with this Colorado case which centers on a dispute involving this website business owner Lorie Smith. She wants to wanted to expand her business to include wedding websites. But she says she opposes same sex marriage on religious grounds, doesn't want to create websites for same sex couples. Colorado law says she can't do it. You spoke with Lorie Smith and the Colorado AG. What did they tell you?

  • John Yang:

    Well, the key to Laurie Smith's argument is that she sees herself as an artist. She says that these websites that she designs are unique, each one different. This is not a template that she creates just sort of plug and play. And so she says that as an artist, the government cannot compel her to convey a message she doesn't want to convey.

  • Lori Smith, Website Designer:

    It's never about the person requesting it. There are some messages I can't create no matter who requests them. And the government does not have the right to compel and force an artists to create custom artwork that goes against their deeply held beliefs, whether those beliefs are the same as mine, or different, it does not have the right to do so.

  • John Yang:

    But on the other hand, the Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser says that they aren't regulating what she produces, they aren't regulating the message of what she produces. They're regulating who can buy it.

  • Phil Weiser, Attorney General, Colorado:

    Anyone, website creator, a book writer, a baker can make whatever service product they want to. They then have to sell it to anyone who comes and asks for access to the product or service if they're open to the public.

  • John Yang:

    So that's the two conflicting views of this case, the justices are going to have to sort out.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Well, the Colorado AG's mentioned a baker there was a case back in 2018 of a Colorado baker who didn't want to design wedding cakes for same sex couples. One would think that that case was settled back then how is this different?

  • John Yang:

    Well, that was a very narrow decision. It was a seven to two decision but on very narrow grounds. It was on the grounds that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission seemed hostile to the baker's religious beliefs in their proceedings, in their dealings with him.

    So it was a very narrow, very, very narrow decision. They're hoping the proponents of the website designer and her backers are hoping for a broader decision that this will talk about all cases in which people are forced or compelled to deliver sell products to same sex couples.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Well, let's talk about this other case Moore v. Harper, the Supreme Court will decide whether the North Carolina Supreme Court has the power to strike down the legislature's illegally gerrymandered congressional map for violating North Carolina's constitution. Tell us about that. It sounds really complicated.

  • John Yang:

    It's really complicated, but it could be really significant. This is a long standing fight that's been going on for a while between the North Carolina legislature and the North Carolina State courts over the redistricting maps. The courts threw them out. They said they violated the state constitution ban against gerrymandering, and the — and actually drew a map on their own.

    Now the key to this is the interpretation of a part of the Constitution called the elections clause that says that the times places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.

    The legislature to the more of this case is Timothy Moore, the Speaker of the House of the North Carolina House. He says that means that the legislature alone can make these decisions that they can't be second guessed. They can't be second guessed by the courts. They can't be held up against the state constitution.

    The opponents on the other side are saying that that is to fine are reading that legislature doesn't just refer to the house of the Senate. It refers to the all of the state machinations in state government.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    So bottom line, then if the court sides in favor with the North Carolina Republicans, what effect what's the implication for federal elections?

  • John Yang:

    Lawyers on both sides use the words revolutionary to talk about this. State constitutional bans on gerrymandering, and in states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina would likely be struck down independent redistricting commissions, and places like Arizona, California and Michigan would be struck down. And it's important to remember that this is the theory that a lot of the legal advisors to Donald Trump we're using —

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Right.

  • John Yang:

    — to say that the legislatures can appoint electors however they want, regardless of the popular vote, so that illegal experts say would be the next logical step in this argument.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    John Yang, you have a quite a busy week ahead. Thanks for starting here with us.

  • John Yang:

    Thanks, Geoff.

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