A federal judge ruled yesterday that the city of Louisville, Kentucky, cannot ban a Christian photographer from limiting her wedding photography business to opposite-sex couples.
Louisville’s 20-year-old “Fairness Ordinance” prevents discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of wedding photographer Chelsey Nelson by the conservative advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, alleges that the city’s law infringes on Nelson’s freedom of religion and speech.
The lawsuit claims that this ordinance could be used to “force Chelsey to create photographs for, blog about, and participate in solemn ceremonies she disagrees with—same-sex wedding ceremonies.”
Nelson filed the suit preemptively, having never been approached by a same-sex couple for a wedding photography shoot. However, she claimed that her wedding photography business had suffered because of the Fairness Ordinance, saying she was afraid to market openly in case she was fined.
On her photography website, Nelson writes “God’s word greatly impacts my life and business. Practically, this means I don’t photograph every wedding that comes my way.”
“I also can’t photograph anything that conflicts with my religious conviction that marriage is a covenant relationship before God between one man and one woman,” she adds.”For example, I don’t photograph same-sex weddings.”
Yesterday, Judge Benjamin J. Beaton of the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, sided with Nelson and ruled that the city of Louisville can not enforce its Fairness Ordinance against Nelson.
Beaton ruled that the city can not ban the photographer from limiting her wedding photography business to opposite-sex marriages and can not prohibit her from explaining her religious beliefs on her website and blogs, reports The Washington Times.
In a 44-page advisory released on Tuesday, Trump-appointee Beaton says that photography counts as “art”, which is equivalent to “speech” — and insisted that the United States government cannot force “speech” from a person when it conflicts with their religious or political beliefs.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer wrote in a statement yesterday that the city “probably” will appeal the decision.
My statement regarding today's ruling from the Federal District Court in Chelsey Nelson Photography v. Louisville Metro Government. pic.twitter.com/qaMSHoGTcR
— Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) August 31, 2022
Fischer says the city will “continue to the extent possible to enforce its ordinance prohibiting anti-discriminatory practices and combating discrimination in any form.”
The ruling yesterday is in stark contrast to a New York federal court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Christian wedding photographer, Emilee Carpenter in which she claimed that providing services to same-sex couples goes against her faith and that New York’s human rights law violates her First Amendment rights.
However in December last year, U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. of Western New York, a Barack Obama appointee, ruled that “the Court is not persuaded” by Carpenter’s claims, dismissing her lawsuit.
Image credits: Header photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom.