A Christian photographer won a court case against the city, and she now isn’t required to photograph same-sex weddings.
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the city of Louisville, Kentucky, cannot compel a photographer to perform at a same-sex wedding, siding with a Christian entrepreneur who had filed suit against the implementation of a new code.
Photographer Chelsey Nelson filed a lawsuit against the city of Louisville in 2019, alleging that the city’s Fairness Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, will force her to shoot weddings between people of the same sex.
United States District Judge Benjamin Beaton ruled in favor of Chelsey Nelson Photography studio owner Nelson on Tuesday.
Though the government “may not compel singers, authors, or photographers to convey themes they don’t support,” Beaton said, “Louisville may mandate restaurants, motels, and businesses to offer services regardless of the proprietors’ opinions or the legal status of their clients.” The federal Constitution treats speech as uniquely separate from other rights, therefore state and local legislation must do the same. … The First Amendment provides reassurance for the opposing speaker on issues like these, no matter how admirable or broadly backed the government’s dedication to equal access or polite speech.
The Fairness Ordinance remains in effect, but the city cannot enforce it against Nelson’s business due to Beaton’s ruling. Nelson may now say on her website that she refuses to perform at same-sex weddings due to religious convictions, thanks to the ruling. It is clear from reading the Fairness Ordinance that such claims are prohibited.
According to Beaton, Nelson’s First Amendment rights would be violated if the city forced her to work at a same-sex wedding. He further pointed out that doing so would be illegal under the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which safeguards the right to exercise one’s religion.
The right to express one’s opinions, even if they are unpopular, is essential to a healthy democracy, as Beaton put it in his article. This Court enjoins the City of Louisville from constraining or suppressing Nelson’s photography and writing on the grounds that the U.S. Constitution preempts Louisville’s Fairness Ordinance.
Beaton was defended by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. Bryan Neihart, legal counsel for the ADF, said that no one should be coerced into saying something they don’t believe. We are relieved that the court found that Chelsey’s First Amendment rights had been infringed by the city. The court’s judgment makes it very obvious to every resident of Kentucky and the rest of the United States that we all have the right to live and work in accordance with our own personal convictions.