A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Christian wedding photographer who refused to work on same-sex weddings, saying it had not been ‘persuaded’ by her argument.
Photographer Emilee Carpenter filed the lawsuit back in April, arguing that New York state’s non-discrimination laws violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights as she ‘believes that God created marriage to be a joyful, exclusive union between one man and one woman’.
She claimed the laws forced her to choose between going against her faith and paying fines of up to $100,000.
On 13 December, US District Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr of Western New York dismissed Carpenter’s case, saying: “The court is not persuaded.”
In her federal lawsuit, Carpenter had said she didn’t want to photograph anything that could depict marriage in a ‘negative way’, or promote any special occasions between ‘same-sex or polygamous’ couples.
She also argued she would refuse to provide wedding photography for ‘irreverent themed weddings’ like ‘Halloween or vampire-themed weddings’, saying she believes marriage ceremonies are ‘inherently religious and solemn events’.
According to the case, Carpenter had received ‘at least seven’ requests to work on same-sex weddings in a year.
However, she ‘declined these requests by not responding to them’.
But Geraci ruled: "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."
Carpenter was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing Evangelical law firm.
Jonathan Scruggs, senior counsel for ADF, said in a statement: “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."
On the other hand, LGBT+ advocates have praised the decision, with Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, saying in a statement: “An overwhelming majority of Americans of every race, faith, and political party support laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination, and 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.
“LGBTQ+ acceptance is growing thanks to leaders in New York, like Attorney General James, who fight for equal treatment in every area of society and defend laws that secure it.”