A Christian photographer is in court challenging a New York law that she says would force her to provide services to homosexual “weddings” against her religious beliefs.
Emilee Carpenter would face fines up to $100,000, a revoked business license, and up to a year in jail. The law also bars her from sharing on her website the religious reason she doesn’t provide services for such events: marriage is the union between one man and one woman. The law violates her First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and speech.
Carpenter filed a lawsuit against the state and county officials. From her legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF):
Since March, Carpenter has received at least seven requests to create content celebrating same-sex weddings. In 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of filmmakers and artists, respectively, who brought similar challenges against laws like New York’s. ADF attorneys are also asking the court to halt New York from enforcing its laws against Carpenter and her business while her lawsuit proceeds.
“New York is attempting to compel Emilee to speak a message she disagrees with and not express her religious views on marriage,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, director of the ADF Center for Conscience Initiatives. “But the government cannot coerce artists to create messages against their will and intimidate them into silence just because it disagrees with their beliefs.”
Christian artists have filed what’s known as pre-enforcement challenges against laws that would punish them for declining to provide services that violate their religious beliefs and for explaining why. ADF represent Christian photographers from Kentucky and Virginia who filed pre-enforcement challenges. Chelsey Nelson filed a lawsuit against the city of Louisville over a so-called non-discrimination law that would violate her religious freedom and freedom of speech. She does not want to provide services for homosexual “weddings,” but if she refuses, she faces government fines and possibly the loss of her livelihood. Photographer Bob Updegrove filed suit against his state over the Virginia Values Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and “gender identity.”
Both cases are still pending.
ADF represented a minister and wedding business owner who won her case last year. Kristi Stokes, who owns Covenant Weddings, filed a pre-enforcement challenge against a similar law in Cuyahoga County in Ohio. She would have been forced to officiate homosexual “weddings.” If she’d refused, she would have faced heavy fines.