A Kentucky-based photographer who refuses to photograph same-sex weddings is being backed in her legal battle by the Department of Justice, which says requiring her to do so would be “violat[ing] her sincerely held religious beliefs,” and “invades her First Amendment rights.” She is fighting against a Louisville ordinance that bans local businesses from discriminating against homosexual customers.
Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said:
The First Amendment forbids the government from forcing someone to speak in a manner that violates individual conscience. The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to protect the right of all persons to exercise their constitutional right to speech and expression.
The legal battle began back in November, when photographer Chelsey Nelson claimed the ordinance violates her First Amendment rights to free speech and exercise of religion, citing her Christian view that “God created marriage to be an exclusive covenant between one man and one woman.”
The suit reads:
Chelsey would decline any request for wedding celebration services or boutique editing services for a same-sex wedding, polygamous wedding, or an open marriage wedding because creating artwork promoting these events would violate Chelsey’s religious and artistic beliefs.
Nelson’s attorneys are now using the Free Speech Clause to block the enforcement of such Louisville law, on the grounds that forcing her to photograph a same-sex wedding “violates the Constitution.”
Bizarrely, the lawsuit also says Nelson would “happily” work on a wedding between a homosexual man and a woman.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief in defense of the city, arguing that Nelson's intent to offer her services only to opposite-sex couples violates the city law. The ACLU brief called Nelson’s wishes “identity-based discrimination.”
The case continues.