A pair of Christian filmmakers whose lawsuit to discriminate against same-sex couples was overturned in court have now had the suit reinstated by a federal appeals court. In an eyebrow raising fact, the married couple’s company has never actually had a gay customer approach them.
Carl and Angel Larsen from Minnesota filed a lawsuit three years ago in order to give their company, Telescope Media Group, the right to refuse same-sex couples who wanted their weddings filmed. The Christian filmmakers had decided they wanted to film marriages “between a man and a woman” in order to “convey messages that promote aspects of their sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
Worrying that they might come up against the state’s Human Rights Act and be fined if they turned down same-sex couples, liked they planned to, they actually sued the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. This all before they were ever approached by any LGBT+ customers.
At the time, the US District Court dismissed their case, leading the pair to then appeal the decision. Now, the Circuit Court has reversed that dismissal, meaning the couple can once again bring a case against the State in a pre-emptive move so they can not be punished for discrimination.
The judges presiding said that forcing the Larsens to film same-sex weddings would infringe on their right to free speech. One judge, David Stras, said, “Even anti-discrimination laws, as critically important as they are, must yield to the Constitution. And as compelling as the interest in preventing discriminatory conduct may be, speech is treated differently under the First Amendment.”
The case has become a battle which has extended beyond the Larsens, with the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom representing them and 10 states supporting their claim, with the American Civil Liberties Union, Anti-Defamation League and 18 other states opposing. Alliance Defending Freedom is defined as a ‘hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Centre for their rabidly homophobic and transphobic views.
This is reminiscent of the case where the Supreme Court ruled that the Christian owners of Ashers bakery in Belfast did not discriminate against a customer when they refused to ice a cake with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’ based on “religious grounds”.
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