A lawsuit filed by an Elmira wedding photographer who refused to photograph same-sex marriages has been tossed out of court by a New York judge. But it doesn’t end there as the photographer plans to fight back.
A Christian photographer and blogger Emilee Carpenter based in the Southern Tier, sued the state in April, alleging that the state’s human rights law violated her First Amendment rights to free speech, free association, and free religious expression. She also said the law violated the establishment clause and her right to due process.
Carpenter said in a statement:
“The laws “substantially burden [her] sincerely held religious beliefs by requiring [her] to either operate [her] expressive business in a way that violates [s] [her] religious beliefs or to close [her] business.”
Carpenter said she would “not accept any projects… celebrating “anything immoral” or “dishonorable to God,” According to court documents.
This week, U.S. District Court Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. dismissed Carpenter’s claims, noting that historically underserved, disfavored, or disadvantaged individuals are entitled to the same access to the public marketplace as afforded to everyone else. Additionally, Judge Geraci made clear in his decision that all businesses claiming to serve the public must serve all of the public, including members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Furthermore, the case does not specifically require the photographer to take pictures at same-sex wedding ceremonies, but instead dismissed the case for lacking a specific claim that could be granted relief.
However, an Arizona-based, Christian, nonprofit advocacy group, “The Alliance for Defending Freedom,” the organization representing Carpenter in the case, disagreed with the ruling.
ADF said in a statement:
“Even explaining on her company’s website which photographs and blogs she can create in good conscience based on her religious beliefs.”
The ADF noted:
“Penalties for violating the laws noted in the ruling could include a fine of up to $100,000, revocation of a business license, and up to one year in jail”
After receiving seven requests since March to create content celebrating same-sex weddings in New York, frustrated Carpenter decided to start the case, as it go beyond her belief.
Carpenter said when the lawsuit was announced in April:
“The state shouldn’t be able to silence or punish me for living out my convictions,” She said.
“I serve clients from all backgrounds, but the government is attempting to tell me what to do, what to say, and what to create based on its beliefs, not mine. Free speech protects everyone. Photographers and other artists should be able to choose the stories they tell,” she added.
Carpenter plans to appeal the decision, according to a DailyWire report:
“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,” ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs said in the statement.
“Artists like Emilee and Lorie Smith in Colorado are protected under the Constitution to freely live and work according to their religious beliefs. Yet the 10th Circuit’s Orwellian decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis opened the door for government officials to compel all manner of speech—forcing total compliance of state-approved speech or be treated as criminals. Emilee and Lorie happily serve all people; they just cannot promote messages which contradict their religious beliefs, including their views on marriage. We earnestly hope the Supreme Court will hear Lorie’s case and protect the constitutional freedoms for all Americans, including creative professionals like Lorie and Emilee,” ADF added.
ADF argues that the decision relied on the same unprecedented logic the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit used in its July ruling in another ADF-represented case, 303 Creative v. Elenis.
“In that case, the 10th Circuit ruled that the government can compel web designer and graphic artist Lorie Smith to speak messages with which she disagrees because she creates ‘custom and unique’ expression. Similarly, in its recent ruling, the federal district court found that New York can compel Carpenter to promote messages that violate her beliefs because her photography and blogging ‘is the product of her unique artistic style and vision,’” the statement added.
In Smith’s lawsuit, attorneys have asked the Supreme Court to hear the case.