Christian wedding photographer can’t be forced to work same-sex weddings, judge rules
A federal judge in Kentucky has ruled that the city of Louisville cannot force a Christian photographer to work same-sex weddings because the “Constitution does not require a choice between gay rights and freedom of speech.”
U.S. District Judge Justin R. Walker on Friday ruled that Chelsey Nelson, a wedding photographer and blogger who is a Christian, can refuse to photograph and blog celebratory messages about same-sex weddings, according to the Christian legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom.
As per a local ordinance, as interpreted by Louisville officials, Nelson would face substantial penalties, including damages, court orders and compliance reports, if she declined to serve a gay couple.
However, the court held, “Just as gay and lesbian Americans ‘cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,’ neither can Americans ‘with a deep faith that requires them to do things passing legislative majorities might find unseemly or uncouth.’ ‘They are members of the community too.’”
The court wrote, “And under our Constitution, the government can’t force them to march for, or salute in favor of, or create an artistic expression that celebrates, a marriage that their conscience doesn’t condone. America is wide enough for those who applaud same-sex marriage and those who refuse to.”
It further stated, “The Constitution does not require a choice between gay rights and freedom of speech. It demands both.”
The court also denied the city’s request to throw out the lawsuit. In February, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest with the court supporting Nelson and her artistic freedom.
Nelson only photographs weddings between one man and one woman due to her Christian belief, which the ordinance wouldn’t allow, according to city officials.
Remember this is about businesses that serve the public. I always say take same sex marriage and replace them with black couple or jewish couple. Now is it OK for them to discriminate? Can she say I don’t photograph weddings for mixed races? Also remember in many small places there may be only one such business in an area. This business was created just to challenge the rights of gay people. A person doesn’t have to go into a public business that violates their religious belief, but if they choose to they must be made to serve the entire public, not just white christian m / f couples.
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In February, the Department of Justice issued a brief in support of the photographer. As I reported in November, the lawsuit was a “pre-enforcement challenge” – meaning that no same-sex couple attempted to hire the photographer.
This is a tactic that Alliance Defending Freedom has used in other lawsuits, in several cases using a business that some believe was created specifically to challenge a local LGBT rights ordinance.
The Trump-appointed judge, Justin Walker, is a Federalist Society member and former clerk for now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He was rated as “not qualified” by the American Bar Association during his confirmation, but the Senate approved him in a 50-41 vote.
NOTE: For those unaware, Alliance Defending Freedom has advocated for criminalizing homosexuality in the United States and has aided such efforts in several foreign nations.