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Judge Rules Photographer Can Refuse To Shoot Same-Sex Weddings, Even Though Nobody Has Asked Her To

Judge Rules Photographer Can Refuse To Shoot Same-Sex Weddings, Even Though Nobody Has Asked Her To
Alliance Defending Freedom

A federal judge has sided with a photographer suing the city of Louisville. The city's Fairness Ordinance has had an injunction placed on it to prevent its enforcement.

The ordinance, which prevented discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity, had been fought for and implemented in 1999. Now, its legality is called into question by Chelsey Nelson, who describes herself as, "a Louisville, Kentucky photographer and private photo editor with a heart for Jesus".

The strangest part in this?

No one has ever asked her to photograph a same-sex wedding.

Last year, Nelson sued the city over its Fairness Ordinance, claiming it violated her constitutional rights. She claimed her business suffered due to her fear to openly advertise in case she was fined, however, she was never cited or asked to photograph a same-sex marriage.

Nelson is represented by a lawyer from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a right-wing extremist organization, classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Chris Hartman, the director of The Fairness Campaign which lobbied to pass the ordinance, has called Nelson's lawsuit "ludicrous" and claimed the ADF is trying "to undermine civil rights laws across the nation."

There are a lot of strong emotions involved in this case.

The appeal to stop the enforcement of the ordinance made its way to a Louisville District Court where Judge Justin Walker sided with Nelson. Walker ruled on Friday that Nelson had a very strong case, and ordered an injunction against the ordinance.

He was quoted as saying:

"America is wide enough for those who applaud same-sex marriage and those who refuse to. The Constitution does not require a choice between gay rights and freedom of speech. It demands both."

Because of this, the court has halted the law while the case moves forward.

Lawyers for the city have not stated if they would appeal the injunction.

The American Civil Liberties Union has argued in a brief defending the city that if Nelson wins her lawsuit, it opens the doors for more discrimination, claiming that it lays the ground work for photographers to turn away Muslim clients, or allow racial discrimination based on a religious belief.

"There is no question that Louisville has the authority to prohibit businesses that choose to operate within its boundaries from discriminating in their sales of goods and services to the public."

The city's argument to dismiss the case was based on the fact they have never taken action against Nelson over the ordinance, but Judge Walker also noted that they have not disavowed the possibility of prosecution.

The lawsuit is still not settled, and the fate of the ordinance will be determined in court. However the injunction against it does not bode well for the city, and the outcome will need to be watched carefully.