The Christian filmmakers who lost a lawsuit to imaginary gay clients have had the decision overturned
A lawsuit filed by two Christian filmmakers who want the right to refuse to film the weddings of same-sex couples has been reinstated by a federal appeals court.
Carl and Angel Larsen run Minnesota video production company Telescope Media Group.
It was rejected two years ago and the judge compared their wish to turn away hypothetical LGBT+ clients to putting up a “whites only” sign.
The 2017 ruling said the couple would be in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) if they refused services to customers on the basis of sexuality.
According to AP News, while the original ruling cited Minnesota’s public accommodation law and said that if they refused services to same-sex couples they could face fines or jail time, a panel of three judges of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision on Friday, August 23.
Judge David Stras said that the Larsens’ films were protected under their first amendment rights to freedom of speech because wedding videos “constituted a media for the communication of ideas”.
The group representing the Christian filmmakers is listed as a “hate group”.
Stras said, according to The Blaze: “Indeed, if Minnesota were correct, there is no reason it would have to stop with the Larsens.
“In theory, it could use the MHRA to require a Muslim tattoo artist to inscribe ‘My religion is the only true religion’ on the body of a Christian if he or she would do the same for a fellow Muslim, or it could demand that an atheist musician perform at an evangelical church service.
“The district court also ruled that the Larsens could not seek relief on various other constitutional theories. We largely agree that these claims fail. But one – the free-exercise claim – can proceed because it is intertwined with their free-speech claim.”
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights told AP News it was disappointed in the decision to reinstate the lawsuit.
Its statement said: “Minnesota is not in the business of creating second-class community members in our state.
“Time and again, Minnesotans have chosen love and inclusion in our communities in order to build a state where our laws lift up our beautiful and complex identities, not hold them down.”
The filmmakers are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom which, according to its website, “is here to protect the right of creative professionals to use their God-given talents in ways that are consistent with their beliefs”.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre defines the organisation as a “hate group”, and said Alliance Defending Freedom has supported the re-criminalisation of homosexuality, state-sanctioned sterilisation of trans people, and has linked homosexuality to pedophilia.
This month, Donald Trump officially proposed a rule which would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT+ people.