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Wedding Photographer Loses Case Against NY's Antidiscrimination Laws

Two women on their wedding day with rings
Via Shutterstock

The photographer's suit argued the state's laws would force her to choose between her faith and paying up to $100,000 in fines. 


A Christian wedding photographer's lawsuit over her refusal to photograph a same-sex wedding has been dismissed by a federal court in New York.

Emilee Carpenter filed the suit in April. She claimed that the state's antidiscrimination laws forced her to choose between going against her religious convictions and paying fines up to $100,000.

She sued the state after being asked to photograph seven same-sex couples, according to NBC News.

U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr. of Western New York dismissed the photographer's argument Monday.

"The Court is not persuaded," he wrote in his decision.

"The crux of Plaintiff's claims is that her photography is the product of her unique artistic style and vision. Thus, an exemption for Plaintiff's unique, non-fungible services would necessarily undermine, not serve, the state's purpose, as it would 'relegate [same-sex couples] to an inferior market' than that enjoyed by the public at large," Geraci wrote.

He went on to cite another court's ruling that found that unique goods and services are exactly where these laws are "most necessary" for equal access.

In other words, Carpenter's argument that her style is special emphasizes the need for antidiscrimination laws that she filed the lawsuit over.

Carpenter's suit claimed New York's antidiscrimination laws violated her First and 14th amendment rights.

"Just 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," Carpenter's lawsuit said.

In response to the dismissal, New York Attorney General Letitia James -- who was named as a Defendant -- posted her agreement to the decision on Twitter.

"My office will always fight to ensure that every New Yorker is treated equally under the law across our entire state," she wrote.

The anti-LGBTQ+ rights organization the Alliance Defending Freedom represented Carpenter. The group denounced the dismissal.

"The court's decision continues down a dangerous path of the government compelling artists to speak messages that violate their religious beliefs -- or imposing steep fines, closing their businesses, or throwing them in jail," Jonathan Scruggs, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said, according to NBC News.

LGBTQ+ advocates praised the ruling.

"LGBTQ acceptance is growing thanks to leaders in New York, like Attorney General James, who fight for equal treatment in every area of society and defend laws that secure it," GLAAD's president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis tweeted.

"In rejecting an attempt to undermine New York State's Human Rights Law, the federal court recognized New York's compelling interest in protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in public accommodations and held that businesses opening themselves to the public must abide by the law," Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney at Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

Sean Ebony Coleman, founder and executive director of Destination Tomorrow said, "The LGBTQ+ community are consistent consumers and our dollars should be valued the same as everyone else's money. This decision shows businesses that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable and will have consequences."

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