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Christian filmmakers lose ‘freedom to discriminate’ lawsuit against imaginary gay clients

Nick Duffy September 21, 2017
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A Christian couple who sued for the right to discriminate against non-existent gay clients have had their lawsuit rejected.

Carl and Angel Larsen run Minnesota video production company Telescope Media Group, and claim that their production company carries out commercial filming work to bring “glory to God”.

The couple teamed up with anti-LGBT evangelical group Alliance Defending Freedom to sue the state in a bid to overturn its anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, insisting that one day they might be forced to film a gay wedding against their beliefs – though they have never actually had a gay client.

Their lawsuit was dismissed this week by Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim, who rejected their bid to undermine LGBT protections in the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

The judge compared their wish to post a message excluding hypothetical gay clients to a business owner putting up a ‘Whites Only’ sign.

He wrote: “[It is] conduct akin to a ‘White Applicants Only’ sign that may be outlawed without infringing on First Amendment rights.

“Posting language on a website telling potential customers that a business will discriminate based on sexual orientation is part of the act of sexual orientation discrimination itself.

“As conduct carried out through language, this act is not protected by the First Amendment.”

As PinkNews reported previously, the couple do not actually appear to have ever filmed a wedding commercially.

Their showreel included no footage from any weddings whatsoever, gay or straight; and there is no suggestion in the lawsuit that they have ever actually been approached by a gay couple with any request.

Their website does not advertise specific wedding filming services, and PinkNews found no listings for their company on any Minnesota wedding services platforms.

Christian filmmakers lose ‘freedom to discriminate’ lawsuit against imaginary gay clients

But the ADF is determined to support the Larsens’ right to discriminate against imaginary clients of their imaginary wedding business.

ADF Senior Counsel Jeremy Tedesco said: “Tolerance is a two-way street. Creative professionals who engage in the expression of ideas shouldn’t be threatened with fines and jail simply for having a particular point of view about marriage that the government may not favor.

“Public officials can’t censor filmmakers or demand that they tell stories in film that violate their deepest convictions.

“People should have the freedom to disagree on critical matters of conscience, which is why everyone, regardless of their view of marriage, can support the Larsens.

“The same government that can force them to violate their faith and conscience can force any one of us to do the same. That’s why we plan to appeal this ruling to the 8th Circuit.”

It is not the first time a lawsuit associated with the ADF appears to have been based on a premise that does not stack up, with a similarly spurious case revolving around a graphic designer.

Lorie Smith, a self-identified “graphic designer”, filed a lawsuit alongside ADF in a bid to demolish LGBT rights protections in Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act, claiming she creates custom wedding websites.

Although the lawsuit claimed that Ms Smith specialises in ‘custom wedding websites’, her public design portfolio did not contain a single example of such a work.

However, her portfolio did include a number of works created for the Colorado Republicans and other strong political opponents of anti-discrimination laws.

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