VICTORY: Court Ruled Louisville KY Can’t Force Christian Photographer to Provide Services for Same-Sex Ceremonies

We’re a little late updating this case, but late is better than never when it comes to court victories for Christians protecting their First Amendment freedoms.

Christian photographer Chelsey Nelson has been fighting for her rights for three years. Louisville in Kentucky has a “fairness” ordinance that would force business owners who don’t want to provide services for same-sex ceremonies to do so if they provide services for marriages between men and women.

The law also bars business owners from sharing the reason they declined, if the reason is religious.

Nelson filed a pre-enforcement lawsuit against the city on the grounds that the law violated her religious freedom and freedom of speech. If charged under this law, she would have faced government fines and loss of livelihood.

The U.S. Department of Justice under President Donald Trump supported Nelson by filing a statement of interest in her case.

Nelson’s fight for freedom paid off. She scored a major victory late last month. Her legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), announced that a federal court ruled in her favor.

The court considered this question: Does applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violate the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment? YES. From the opinion (PDF):

The City and those acting on its behalf may not invoke Metro Ordinance § 92.05(A) to compel Nelson to provide her wedding photography services for same-sex wedding ceremonies or otherwise express messages inconsistent with Nelson’s beliefs….The City and those acting on its behalf may not invoke Metro Ordinance § 92.05(B) to prohibit Nelson from posting statements…on her website or making similar statements on her studio’s website, on her studio’s social-media sites, or to prospective clients.

“We’re pleased the court agreed that the city violated Chelsey’s First Amendment rights,” ADF Legal Counsel Bryan Neihar. “The court’s decision sends a clear and necessary message to every Kentuckian—and American—that each of us is free to speak and work according to our deeply held beliefs. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court issues a similar decision when it addresses the same issue in 303 Creative.”

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