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Christian wedding photographer challenges NY state over law forcing her to service same-sex ‘weddings’

'To force someone to actively engage in a ceremony that millions of Americans consider sacred, to be there, participate, testify to something you disagree with, that really is a core violation of someone's conscience.'
Wed Apr 14, 2021 - 11:14 am EST
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Emilee Carpenter, Christian photographer Emille Carpenter

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NEW YORK, April 14, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – A Christian wedding photographer is launching a legal challenge against the state of New York over its “non-discrimination” laws that force her to contravene her religious conviction that “God created marriage to be a joyful, exclusive union between one man and one woman.”

Emilee Carpenter has filed a federal lawsuit against New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D), along with his administration, represented by New York Democratic Attorney General Letitia James, after they threatened her with fines and even imprisonment for refusing to service so-called same-sex “weddings” as part of her photography business.

The complaint details Carpenter’s willingness to work with any individual on photography projects, regardless of “sexual identity,” but that she will not simply comply with any request that a client might ask for, such as “photographs that flout her artistic style, celebrate obscenity, or demean others.”

Carpenter also refuses to do business with people and organizations that promote abortion, such as Planned Parenthood.

“[N]ot satisfied with equal treatment,” the lawsuit continues, “New York officials demand ideological purity — that Emilee violate her conscience by professing the state’s approved view about marriage.”

Currently, under New York law, businesses like Carpenter’s are required to provide specific services. New York Executive Law § 296.2(a) prohibits “unlawful discriminatory practices … ‘because of’ sexual orientation in ‘any place of public accommodation.’”

The litigation documents explain that within this provision, “the Accommodations Clause forces Emilee to celebrate same-sex engagements or weddings and would require her to promote messages that violate her religious beliefs or require her to participate in religious ceremonies that violate her religious beliefs, something she cannot do.”

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Jonathan Scruggs , Carpenter’s legal representation in the case and senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, said that “[the] First Amendment protects people on all sides. It should protect the LGBT artist for the same reason it should protect Emilee. These freedoms go both ways,” the Washington Free Beacon reported.

As part of her photography work, Carpenter “doesn't just go, hit a few buttons, and leave,” Scruggs added, “she's there encouraging, celebrating, promoting the wedding as most good wedding photographers do.” 

“So to force someone to actively engage in a ceremony that millions of Americans consider sacred, to be there, participate, testify to something you disagree with, that really is a core violation of someone's conscience.”

In like manner, the lawsuit argues that “[j]ust as the government cannot compel a lesbian baker to create a cake condemning same-sex marriage or an atheist playwright to wax positively about God, New York cannot force Emilee to convey messages she objects to.”

Scruggs said that similar court decisions in recent history have set a favorable precedent going forward with Carpenter’s case, citing the example of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case in Colorado in 2018 and 2019, and an Arizona state Supreme Court ruling in favor of the freedom of expression of a local art studio against LGBT activists.


  alliance defending freedom, emilee carpenter, religious freedom, same-sex weddings

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