Last Friday, the US Supreme Court ruled that a graphic designer in Colorado had a First Amendment right not to design wedding websites for same-sex couples even though state law protected them from discrimination.

This decision affects all queer people in the US, even those living in states like Washington with robust anti-discrimination statutes that should guarantee their right to public accommodations.

The court’s narrow ruling removes that guarantee, but it doesn’t allow just any business to discriminate against queer people, only those who offer an “expressive” good or service.

The problem is the court didn’t define exactly what that means.

Legal experts say this ambiguity invites people to test the limits of what the decision means and to push the boundaries of what kinds of discrimination could qualify as protected speech, not only against queer people but against racial and religious minorities, too.

Kendrick Washington, policy advocacy director for the ACLU of Washington, compared a tailor who designs custom bespoke suits and a department store. After this court decision, the tailor could refuse to design a suit for a queer wedding, but the department store would still have to sell them something off the rack.

Washington law still protects LGBTQ people from discrimination if they’re simply buying a product, but not if that product is designed or created for them. When you consider the breadth of what counts as a custom commission–be it art, music, paintings, pottery design, writing, or a website–it’s a long list.

“I think we're gonna be busy for a few years here as these cases work their way up through the courts,” Washington said. “This isn't really a case about the First Amendment–this really is a case about humanity and how we treat other humans with respect and dignity… If you think your ability to discriminate now is legal, I mean, by all means, go for it, but history is going to reflect poorly on you.”

LGBTQ caucus member and State Sen. Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood) said queer people remain protected when dining at restaurants, staying at hotels, reserving a venue, and using other common business services.

“I think we know that it's not good business to discriminate,” he said. “If you're a business owner and technically the Supreme Court lets you discriminate in some narrow circumstance… the word is gonna spread, and it's gonna be harder to attract and retain clients if you're being bigoted or hateful toward them.”

State Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle), another member of the state’s LGBTQ caucus, said Washington’s legislative, executive, and judicial branches are prepared to take a “strong reading” of the state’s anti-discrimination law. In a statement, the caucus said the court sided with “forces of division” during a period of increased hate and violence toward the LGBTQ community.

Julia Marks, a litigation attorney with Legal Voice in Seattle, said it will likely take years for courts to fully define the ambiguous concept of “expressive” businesses. The Supreme Court is likely to take up this issue again in the future to clarify how such a broad concept should be applied, she said.

Marks said that in most cases anti-queer discrimination is still against Washington state law and that there are still legal salves and services like hers that can help.

“If you're subject to discrimination, don't assume it's now OK,” Marks said. 

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement that the court’s decision only applies to a tiny number of Washington’s “purely artistic businesses,” and his office will take action if others try to buck the state’s anti-discrimination mandates.

University of Washington Law Professor Terry Price said the Supreme Court should not have ruled on this case in the first place because it doesn't appear that a gay couple ever asked the graphic designer, Lorie Smith of 303 Creative, to make a wedding website.

In fact, it looks like her legal team might have made up a gay guy and submitted a seemingly fake document of the man’s request the day after filing their case in federal court. But as far as the law is concerned, the “dubiousness” of the request doesn’t matter.

To make things worse, the far-right Alliance Defending Freedom is the nonprofit behind the case. Considered an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the influential legal advocacy organization for the Christian right donates gobs of money to anti-abortion, anti-gay, and anti-trans causes in the US and around the world. Its revenue has surged during this period of anti-trans and anti-queer hate.

“I mean, somebody should have done some leg work about this and ideally they would moot this opinion,” Price said. “If you really wanted to figure out a solution to this, there's plenty of other cases out there that are better vehicles for this. Even Masterpiece Cakeshop is a better vehicle because they wanted him to put specific words on a cake and he said no, I won't put those words on a cake, right? It wasn't a made up gay guy. It was an actual event. It was an actual moment in time.”