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Court: Christian photographer can’t be forced to shoot same-sex weddings

A Christian blogger and photographer won her legal battle against an ordinance in Louisville, Kentucky, that would have required her to take photos at same-sex weddings.

Chelsey Nelson was represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys, who challenged the Fairness Ordinance that required her to take photos and create blogs promoting same-sex weddings, violating her First Amendment rights.

CBN News reports:

“In his 44-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Beaton said the government cannot force creative artists to articulate messages they don’t support. ‘Although Louisville may require restaurants and hotels and stores to provide services regardless of the proprietors’ views or their customers’ legal status, the government may not force singers or writers or photographers to articulate messages they don’t support,” Beaton wrote.

“Because speech is categorically different under the federal Constitution, local laws must treat it differently, too. However worthy and widely supported the government’s commitment to equal access and respectful speech, these are concerns the First Amendment resolves in favor of the dissenting speaker.'”

Bryan Neihart, ADF Legal Counsel, stated that the court’s ruling sends out a clear message concerning free speech.

“‘Free speech is for everyone. No one should be forced to say something they don’t believe,” said Neihart. “We’re pleased the court agreed that the city violated Chelsey’s First Amendment rights. 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.'”

The ordinance had also stopped Nelson and Chelsey Nelson Photography, her studio, from explaining publicly her reasons for celebrating weddings strictly between a man and a woman.

ADF attorneys requested that the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky stop the city from threatening the photographer and forcing her to promote messages that go against her faith.

“‘{T}he Constitution does not permit governments to promote their perceptions of fairness by extinguishing or conditioning the free expression of opposing perceptions of the common good,” Judge Beaton wrote. The court also explained that ‘compelled speech may turn the writer, and every other kind of artist as well, into a minor official, working on themes handed down from above.’

The judge’s decision did not overturn the Fairness Ordinance but ordered the city not to enforce it against Nelson or her business.
Nelson told WHAS-TV she was relieved after the court’s ruling.

‘Now, I’m free to have statements on my website about the work that I’m able and willing to do and the messages that I can communicate. This is a win for every creative in the entire nation.”

Read the full article here.

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