Photographer can’t be forced to shoot same-sex weddings, federal judge rules

The city of Louisville, Kentucky, can’t bar a photographer from limiting her wedding photography business to opposite-sex couples or from explaining why her religious beliefs compel her to turn down same-sex wedding assignments, a federal district court ruled Tuesday.

Chelsey Nelson, a Christian photographer who specializes in photographing weddings, challenged the city ordinance that required her to create photographs and online blogs for same-sex weddings if she did so for those between a man and a woman.

The city’s public-accommodations “Fairness Ordinance” also banned her from publicly explaining her religious reasons for defining her wedding-photography service in that way.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, in a statement Tuesday evening, said the city “will likely” appeal the decision.

He said the city “will continue to enforce to the fullest extent possible its ordinance prohibiting anti-discriminatory practices and will fight against discrimination in any form.”

Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a public-interest law firm, asked the federal court to stop Louisville from “threatening” Ms. Nelson, a news release stated. They also noted Ms. Nelson’s “case is similar to one now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court — 303 Creative v. Elenis — involving Colorado graphic artist and website designer Lorie Smith.”

The high court will hear Ms. Smith’s case in the term beginning in October.

“Although Louisville may require restaurants and hotels and stores to provide services regardless of the proprietors’ views or their customers’ legal status, the government may not force singers or writers or photographers to articulate messages they don’t support,” Judge Benjamin J. Beaton, a Trump appointee, wrote in a 44-page opinion issued Tuesday.

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The opinion also said notions of “fairness” do not give the state the right to bar dissent.

“The Constitution does not permit governments to promote their perceptions of fairness by extinguishing or conditioning the free expression of opposing perceptions of the common good,” he wrote.

ADF attorney Bryan Neihart, in a statement, said he hopes the Supreme Court will reach a similar decision.

“Free speech is for everyone. No one should be forced to say something they don’t believe,” he said. The district court’s decision “sends a clear and necessary message to every Kentuckian — and American — that each of us is free to speak and work according to our deeply held beliefs.”

The Washington Times also contacted County Attorney Mike O’Connell for comment.

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