Louisville wedding photographer files suit to refuse same-sex couples

Louisville wedding photographer files suit to refuse same-sex couples
A Louisville photographer is taking on the city’s Fairness Law in federal court, backed by a faith-based legal team. (Source: Chelsey Nelson)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It's a first.

A Louisville photographer is taking on the city’s Fairness Law in federal court, backed by a faith-based legal team.

Photographer Chelsey Nelson maintains in her federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that she doesn’t want to take photos of same-sex weddings, and Louisville’s Fairness Law is violating her First Amendment rights. But, according to Nelson’s own attorneys, there are no same-sex couples asking Nelson to photograph their wedding.

WAVE 3 News asked Nelson’s attorney, Kate Anderson, Senior Counsel for The Alliance Defending Freedom, if Nelson was ever approached by a same-sex couple to take their wedding photos?

“She has not been approached by a particular couple,” Anderson replied.

Nelson takes photos that her attorney calls traditional wedding snapshots: Her art, that she wants protected. Even though Nelson hasn’t been approached to photograph any same-sex weddings, she still filed suit against Louisville /Jefferson County Government and The Metro Human Relations Commission.

The suit states Nelson wants to celebrate “Jack and Jill” not “Jack and Jim.”

Anderson said it’s simple: Nelson is a Christian who believes marriage is about one man and one woman.

“As she’s been building her business, she realized that there was a law in Louisville that would force her to promote messages supporting same-sex marriage, to participate in same-sex weddings,” Anderson said of Nelson.

The suit maintains Louisville’s Fairness Law violates Nelson’s First Amendment rights because she can’t create, promote or participate in anything that dishonors God, like themed weddings, such as a Game of Thrones-themed wedding.

The Alliance also was involved in Lexington, where a judge ruled in favor of Hands on Originals, a business that refused to print T-Shirts for the city’s Pride festival. UofL Brandeis Law School Professor Sam Marcosson said because Kentucky law already doesn’t allow a substantial burden on religion, the photographers’ case may not develop.

“She has a lot of protection under state law, and it makes it much less likely that there would be any violation of the First Amendment which would make it more difficult for her to justify a preliminary injunction,” Marcosson said.

Anderson added that the suit first seeks a temporary injunction, so if Nelson is approached by a same-sex couple, she won’t have to comply with the law. It could take several weeks for a ruling on the injunction.

“They think they can infringe upon LGBTQ rights, and it’s frightening,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign. “It is upsetting, but I don’t think they’ll be victorious.”

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