Photographer, editor, and blogger Chelsey Nelson of Louisville, Ky., has joined other wedding professionals defending their religious beliefs in court against nondiscrimination laws.
Nelson’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 19, asks the court to preempt Louisville’s anti-discrimination law and declare it unconstitutional. The law would make it illegal for Nelson to decline to photograph a same-sex wedding because of her Biblical beliefs about marriage. It would also not allow her to explain her religious views on marriage to potential clients on her website.
“It’s unlawful to coerce an artist to create messages against her will and intimidate her into silence just because the city disagrees with her beliefs,” ADF senior counsel Jonathan Scruggs said.
The Kentucky Supreme Court recently upheld the right of Lexington, Ky., printer Blaine Adamson to decline to print T-shirts with messages contrary to his religious convictions. But it dodged the constitutional question by ruling on a technicality. A favorable ruling from the Arizona Supreme Court protecting wedding invitation designers and a decision from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals shielding wedding videographers have more directly addressed the First Amendment problems posed by broad anti-discrimination laws.
Floral designer Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., has appealed her case to the U.S. Supreme Court for a second time after the Washington state Supreme Court reaffirmed a previous ruling against her. Seventeen states, 43 members of Congress, and a diverse number of legal experts and religious groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in her favor. —S.W.