Christian wedding photographer who refused service to gay couples loses case

A federal court in New York dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Christian wedding photographer who refused to photograph same-sex weddings.

The woman, Emilee Carpenter, filed the federal lawsuit in April, arguing that New York’s nondiscrimination laws forced her to choose between going against her faith by photographing same-sex weddings and paying fines of up to $100,000.

U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. of Western New York dismissed Carpenter’s claims Monday, saying that “the Court is not persuaded.”

“The crux of Plaintiff’s claims is that her photography is the product of her unique artistic style and vision. Thus, an exemption for Plaintiff’s unique, non-fungible services would necessarily undermine, not serve, the State’s purpose, as it would ‘relegate [same-sex couples] to an inferior market’ than that enjoyed by the public at large,” Geraci ruled.

Carpenter sued the state after she was asked to photograph seven same-sex couples, arguing that the laws violated her First and 14th amendment rights.

“Just as the government cannot compel a lesbian baker to create a cake condemning same-sex marriage or an atheist playwright to wax positively about God, New York cannot force Emilee to convey messages she objects to,” the lawsuit said.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit religious organization with a history of litigating against LGBTQ rights, defended Carpenter. The group denounced the court’s decision and repeated its request for the Supreme Court to take up the case.

“The court’s decision continues down a dangerous path of the government compelling artists to speak messages that violate their religious beliefs — or imposing steep fines, closing their businesses, or throwing them in jail,” Jonathan Scruggs, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement Wednesday.

LGBTQ advocates lauded the court’s decision, saying “support for marriage equality has never been higher.”

“Non-discrimination laws protect every citizen and send a signal that all are welcome, and that’s good for business,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement Thursday.

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