Emilee Carpenter filed a federal lawsuit in April, arguing that state’s non-discrimination laws violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights because she “believes that God created marriage to be a joyful, exclusive union between one man and one woman”.
The photographer claimed she was forced to choose between going against her religious beliefs by photographing gay weddings or paying fines of up to $100,000 for breaking the law.
On 13 December, US District Judge Frank P Geraci Jr of Western New York dismissed her case, saying that “the court is not persuaded”, according to NBC News.
“The crux of plaintiff’s claims is that her photography is the product of her unique artistic style and vision. Thus, an exemption for Plaintiff’s unique, non-fungible services would necessarily undermine, not serve, the state’s purpose, as it would ‘relegate [same-sex couples] to an inferior market’ than that enjoyed by the public at large,” Geraci ruled.
Carpenter had argued in the lawsuit that she didn’t want to take photos that might depict a marriage in a “negative way” or promote any special occasions between “same-sex or polygamous” couples. She also argued she “would not provide wedding photography” for “irreverent themed weddings” – like “Halloween or vampire-themed weddings” – because she believes weddings are “inherently religious and solemn events”.
The case said Carpenter received “at least seven requests” to photograph same-sex weddings in a year, but “declined these requests by not responding to them”.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing Evangelical law firm that is designated as an anti-LGBT+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, represented Carpenter. The ADF has fought multiple anti-trans and anti-abortion cases in recent years.
“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,” Jonathan Scruggs, senior ADF counsel, said in a statement.
LGBT+ groups praised the verdict, with GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis saying: “Non-discrimination laws protect every citizen and send a signal that all are welcome, and that’s good for business.”