A wedding photographer in Louisville, Kentucky, has filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s Fairness Ordinance saying it forces her to “use her artistic talents to promote same-sex wedding ceremonies.”
The photographer, Chelsey Nelson, asks in the lawsuit that the city not only stop enforcing the 20-year-old ordinance but also requests ‘compensatory damages.’
In the filing, Nelson’s lawyers from the anti-LGBTQ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) assert the law would “force Chelsey to create photographs for, blog about, and participate in solemn ceremonies she disagrees with–same-sex wedding ceremonies.”
“She believes that marriage should only be between a man and a woman,” said Jonathan Scruggs of ADF speaking to WDRB.com.
“The way Louisville’s law works, because Chelsey wants to photograph and blog about weddings between a man and a woman, it requires her to do the same type of thing to celebrate same-sex wedding ceremonies, and that’s just wrong,” added Scruggs.
The lawsuit claims the ordinance violates the First Amendment, which protects religion, speech, assembly, and the press, as well as the 14th Amendment, which says the government cannot “deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”
Louisville Metro Ordinance 92.05 states it is an unlawful practice to deny someone “full and equal” enjoyment of goods, services, privileges, advantages and public accommodations based on their race, color, religion, nationality, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The ordinance also prohibits communications that suggest a person could be discriminated based on the above criteria.
But here’s the thing – no same-sex couple has even approached Nelson to photograph their wedding let alone bring charges against her via the Fairness Ordinance.
Scruggs calls the lawsuit a pre-emptive strike saying his client “just wants clarity” just in case a same-sex couple might approach her for their nuptials.
Chris Hartman, director for the local LGBTQ advocacy group The Fairness Campaign, calls the filing a “fishing expedition” that basically amounts to a “frivolous lawsuit.”
Noting ADF’s predilection of running back and forth across the country representing anti-LGBTQ clients, Hartman likened the legal action to “throwing spaghetti at the wall” in their attacks on the LGBTQ community hoping something will stick.
Hartman points out that the Fairness Ordinance prohibits not only discrimination based on sexual orientation, but bias based on religion or color.
“What they are challenging in this lawsuit is a provision that has been well accepted in civil rights statutes across the entire nation for more than 50 years, which says that a business may not post on its business front or I suppose in this case, on its website, that it will not serve protected classes of people,” Hartman told the Courier-Journal.
He added, “This has been an instrumental part of civil rights laws since the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964.”
Alliance Defending Freedom has been involved in numerous lawsuits across the country challenging local anti-discrimination ordinances. Just some of those cases have included wedding invitation designers in Tuscon, Washington state florist Baronelle Stutzman, and homophobic Colorado baker Jack Phillips.