Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor falsely claimed in a new opinion for a major same-sex wedding case that the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was motivated by anti-gay prejudice.
In a landmark 6-3 decision that pit the interests of LGBTQ non-discrimination against First Amendment freedom, the Supreme Court on Friday held that a Colorado graphic designer who wants to make wedding websites does not have to create them for same-sex marriages.
The nation’s highest court ruled in favor of artist Lorie Smith, who sued the state of Colorado over its anti-discrimination law that prohibited businesses providing sales or other accommodations to the public from denying service based on a customer’s sexual orientation.
“In this case, Colorado seeks to force an individual to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “But tolerance, not coercion, is our Nation’s answer. The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands. Because Colorado seeks to deny that promise, the judgment is reversed.”
Sotomayor dissented from the majority, along with Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, calling the ruling “a new license to discriminate” and arguing that the “symbolic effect of the decision is to mark gays and lesbians for second-class status.”
As part of her dissenting opinion, Sotomayor mentioned the Pulse shooting, where 49 people were killed and dozens more were injured. Police shot and killed gunman Omar Mateen after a three-hour standoff, during which he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror group.
Sotomayor argued that the massacre was an instance of anti-LGBTQ hate.
“A social system of discrimination created an environment in which LGBT people were unsafe,” wrote Sotomayor. “Who could forget the… the Pulse nightclub massacre, the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history?”
Despite Sotomayor’s assertion, however, the FBI and other law enforcement were unable to verify any claims that Mateen was gay, frequented gay bars or even knew the Pulse nightclub was a gay bar.
Mateen’s final selection of Pulse as his target appears to have been made based on the lack of security, not because it was a gay club, and made at the last minute, according to court and phone records that emerged in the case against Mateen’s widow, who was put on trial for allegedly aiding and abetting her late husband.
Mateen reportedly Googled “Orlando nightclubs” after finding that security at his original target, a major shopping and entertainment complex, was too high.
Still, Sotomayor went on to mention various examples of anti-LGTBQ discrimination and violence in her opinion, seemingly arguing the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday will create more hostility toward the LGBTQ community and lead to more hate crimes.
Gorsuch lambasted Sotomayor’s dissent, saying it “reimagines the facts” from “top to bottom” and fails to answer the fundamental question: “Can a State force someone who provides her own expressive services to abandon her conscience and speak its preferred message instead?”