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Law

Judge decides it’s OK for a photographer to refuse to work a same-sex wedding – even though no one has ever asked her to

Patrick Kelleher August 15, 2020
photographer same-sex weddings Chelsey Nelson

Chelsey Nelson (Alliance Defending Freedom)

A federal judge has decided that it’s OK for a photographer to refuse to work a same-sex wedding – despite the fact that nobody has ever asked her to do so.

Chelsey Nelson, of Chelsey Nelson Photography, describes herself on her website as “a Louisville, Kentucky photographer and private photo editor with a heart for Jesus”.

In 1999, Louisville, Kentucky introduced a Fairness Ordinance, initiated by LGBT+ advocacy group The Fairness Campaign, which protects LGBT+ people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Last year, Nelson appealed to the Louisville District Court to issue an injunction to make sure she is never obliged to photograph a same-sex wedding under the terms of the Fairness Ordinance – despite the fact that nobody had ever asked her to do so.

Now, a federal judge has blocked the city from enforcing its Fairness Ordinance against Nelson.

United States District Judge Justin Walker ruled on Friday (August 14) that Nelson cannot be compelled to photograph same-sex weddings under the Fairness Ordinance, according to the Courier Journal.

Judge declares that America is ‘wide enough’ for those who ‘refuse’ to applaud same-sex marriage in Chelsey Nelson ruling.

“America is wide enough for those who applaud same-sex marriage and those who refuse to,” Walker said in his 27-page decision.

“The Constitution does not require a choice between gay rights and freedom of speech. It demands both.”

The conservative judge went on to reference the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that made same-sex marriage the law of the land.

“Just as gay and lesbian Americans ‘cannot be treated as social outcasts or as inferior in dignity and worth,’ neither can Americans ‘with a deep faith that requires them to do things passing legislative majorities might find unseemly or uncouth’.

He said the woman’s photography counts as “art”, which is equivalent to “speech” – and insisted that the United States government cannot force “speech” from a person when it conflicts with their religious or political beliefs.

The city of Louisville said it had never threatened to force Nelson to photograph same-sex weddings.

The photographer claimed she was afraid to market her business in case she was fined.

Despite this, Judge Walker said in his decision that Nelson could face enforcement under the terms of the Fairness Ordinance.

Meanwhile, Nelson claimed that her business had suffered because of the Fairness Ordinance, saying she was afraid to market openly in case she was fined.

In a lawsuit filed last year, Nelson argued that the Fairness Ordinance violates “the United States Constitution’s First Amendment protections for speech, for association, for press, for free exercise of religion”.

Nelson is represented by a lawyer from the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been classified as an anti-LGBT+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

Speaking last year, Chris Hartman, director of The Fairness Campaign, said Nelson’s lawsuit was “ludicrous”.

Hartman hit out at the Alliance Defending Freedom, accusing them of trying “to undermine civil rights laws across the nation”.

More: Alliance Defending Freedom, Chelsey Nelson, Kentucky, Louisville

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