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US Supreme Court Debates Web Designer’s Stance Against Gay Marriage By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Web designer Laurie Smith, a plaintiff in a Supreme Court case that objects to same-sex marriage, poses for a photo at her office in Littleton, Colorado, US November 28, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Mohat

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Written by Andrew Chung and Nate Raymond

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday engaged in vigorous arguments in a major case pitting LGBTQ rights against a claim that the constitutional right to free speech exempts artists from anti-discrimination laws — a dispute involving an evangelical Christian web designer who refuses. To provide services for same-sex marriage.

The justices were hearing Denver-area business owner Lori Smith’s appeal for an exemption from a Colorado law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and other factors. Lower courts have ruled in favor of the state of Colorado.

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Smith, who runs a web design project called 303 Creative, contends that Colorado’s anti-discrimination law violates the right of artists — including web designers — to freedom of expression under the First Amendment to the US Constitution by forcing them to express messages through their work that they oppose. .

Smith, 38, said she believes marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples, a view shared by many conservative Christians. She pre-emptively sued the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and other state officials in 2016 because she feared she would be penalized for refusing to hold same-sex weddings.

The liberal justices posed a series of tough questions of Christine Wagoner, the attorney representing Smith.

A ruling in Smith’s favor could open the door to allowing an individual in Smith’s position to also refuse to provide services if they object to interracial or disabled marriages, Judge Sonia Sotomayor said.

“Where’s the line?” Sotomayor asked.

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Wagoner portrayed the case as a battle against government-imposed rhetoric, describing her client as an artist who creates custom innovation rather than just a service. Wagoner said Colorado law obliges Smith to “create speech, not just sell it.”

Waggonner said that Smith “believes that heterosexual marriage respects the Bible and same-sex marriage contradicts that. If the government can call that speech equivalent, it can do so for any speech, whether religious or political. Under the Colorado theory, jurisdictions can Force a Democrat publicist to write a Republican press release.”

Endorsing Smith’s arguments for free speech could lead to widespread discrimination against gay people and others, Colorado and civil rights groups and several legal scholars said.

“Mike and Harry”

Liberal Justice Elena Kagan asked why a website designer who provided a heterosexual couple with a standard wedding website with names, dates, photos and hotel information would refuse to provide the same website to a gay couple.

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“If I understand you, you’re saying, ‘Yeah, she can say no,’ because there’s just an ideology in the fact that it’s Mike and Harry, and there’s a picture of those two guys together,” Kagan said.

The case follows the Supreme Court’s narrow 2018 ruling in favor of Jack Phillips, a Denver-area Christian baker who, on religious grounds, refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The court in that case stopped short of granting freedom of speech exemptions to anti-discrimination laws.

Like Phillips, Smith is represented by attorneys from the Freedom Defense Alliance, a conservative religious rights group. The Supreme Court did not address a single aspect of its challenge to a Colorado law based on religious rights also protected by the First Amendment, focusing on freedom of speech instead.

Public accommodations laws exist in many states, prohibiting discrimination in areas such as housing, hotels, retail businesses, restaurants, and educational institutions.

One Colorado cent in 1885. Its current law prohibits businesses open to the public from denying goods or services to persons because of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and certain other characteristics, and from giving notice to that effect.

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Conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett said Wagner was in her “strongest ground when she’s talking about her sitting down and designing the drawings and coming up with them to dedicate to the couple.” But Barrett questioned whether the First Amendment would still protect Smith if she wanted to refuse to provide a gay couple a “plug and play” site that heterosexual couples could purchase.

Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the case came down to “a rather narrow question of how website designers should be singled out,” whether they are like restaurants or publishing houses.

“If you win this case, and if you win here, the next case is about a caterer—at least your situation here would this be any different?” Kavanaugh-Wagoner asked.

A caterer will be different from a web designer, Waggonner said.

Similar legal battles have been fought involving other small businesses including a wedding photographer and calligraphy owners in other states.

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The Supreme Court, with a conservative majority 6-3, has become increasingly supportive of religious rights and related free speech claims in recent years even as it has supported LGBTQ rights in other cases. The court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in a landmark decision in 2015, and in 2020 expanded protections for LGBT workers under federal law.

A ruling in Smith’s case is expected by the end of June.

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MicroStrategy is at its lowest level since 2020 after the sales were revealed

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(Bloomberg) — Shares of MicroStrategy touched their lowest level since August 2020 after the enterprise software company, which in recent years has been known as the largest buyer of bitcoin, revealed its first sale of the token.

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The stock fell 1.1 percent to $136.63 on Thursday, down 75 percent this year. Bitcoin rose less than 1% to around $16,590 and is believed to have fallen 64% since the start of the year.

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In a filing on Wednesday, MicroStrategy said it acquired approximately 2,395 Bitcoin between the beginning of November and December 21 through its subsidiary MacroStrategy, and paid out approximately $42.8 million in cash. It then sold 704 of the tokens on Dec. 22 for a total of about $11.8 million, citing tax purposes, before buying another 810 of them two days later.

Matt Malley, chief market strategist for Miller Tabak + Co. Step down as CEO. This news means they don’t seem to want to do that anytime soon.”

Overall, MicroStrategy held about 132,500 bitcoins worth over $4 billion USD as of December 27th. The company paid an average purchase price of $30,397 per bitcoin.

“Given MicroStrategy’s $2.4 billion in leverage, we believe the company may have a lot of leverage over Bitcoin, and may face some liquidity risk,” Jefferies analyst Brent Thiel wrote in a note on Wednesday. Thill has an “underperform” rating on the stock and a price target of $110.

Over the years of the pandemic, MicroStrategy has become well known for its Bitcoin takeovers, largely led by Saylor. Earlier this year, Saylor stepped down from that role and now serves as CEO at the company and continues to lead its bitcoin strategy.

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MicroStrategy was trading around $120 before Saylor first announced the company’s Bitcoin purchases in 2020. The stock reached an all-time high of $1,315 in February 2021.

(Updates to include the stock’s closing price in the second paragraph.)

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Bankman-Fried May File Petition in New York Federal Court Next Week Before Judge Louis Kaplan By Cointelegraph

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Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried is set to appear in court on the afternoon of January 3 to enter a lawsuit over two counts of wire fraud and six counts of conspiracy against him related to the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, according to Reuters. mentioned on December 28, citing court records. Bankman-Fried will appear before District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan.

Judge Kaplan was appointed to hear the case on December 27 after the original judge in the case, Ronnie Abrams, Resigned herself because of connections between FTX and the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, where her husband is a partner. The company provided advisory services to FTX in 2021.