Judge Rejects Couple's Argument for Refusing Gay Customers

In this Dec. 7, 2016 photo, Carl and Angel Larsen, owners of Telescope Media Group, speak during an interview in St. Cloud, Minn. Photo: Dave Schwarz/The St. Cloud Times via AP
In this Dec. 7, 2016 photo, Carl and Angel Larsen, owners of Telescope Media Group, speak during an interview in St. Cloud, Minn.

September 21, 2017 01:13 PM

A federal judge has dismissed a Minnesota couple's lawsuit challenging a state law for the right to refuse to shoot wedding videos for same-sex couples.

Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim in Minneapolis dismissed Carl and Angel Larsen's case Wednesday.

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The St. Cloud couple, who own a videography company, Telescope Media Group, sued over a provision of the Minnesota Human Rights Act that bars discrimination by businesses. They argued that the law amounted to "a state effort to stamp out expression opposing same-sex marriage," and they sought to post a notice on their company's website that they won't shoot same-sex weddings, based on their religious beliefs, according to the motion to dismiss.

In his ruling, Tunheim described that as "conduct akin to a 'White Applicants Only' sign" that may be outlawed without infringing on First Amendment rights.

"Posting language on a website telling potential customers that a business will discriminate based on sexual orientation is part of the act of sexual orientation discrimination itself," the judge wrote. "As conduct carried out through language, this act is not protected by the First Amendment."

Jeremy Tedseco, an attorney for a conservative Christian group representing the couple, the Alliance Defending Freedom, said the group will appeal.

"Tolerance is a two-way street," Tedesco said in a statement. "Creative professionals who engage in the expression of ideas shouldn't be threatened with fines and jail simply for having a particular point of view about marriage that the government may not favor."

The case is similar to an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court showdown involving a Colorado baker's refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The alliance is also representing the baker, Jack Phillips.
 

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