A federal judge dismissed Wednesday a Minnesota video production company's lawsuit for the right to refuse to shoot same-sex weddings, saying the company's stance is on the level of posting "a ‘White Applicants Only’ sign.”
Carl and Angel Larsen of Telescope Media Group in St. Cloud wanted to add wedding videography to their list of services, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported — and they filed suit against the state in December, arguing that a provision of the Minnesota Human Rights Act unconstitutionally barred them from refusing to shoot gay weddings.
The Larsens — a Christian couple who said through their attorneys that they will appeal the decision — argued in court that the law was “a state effort to stamp out expression opposing same-sex marriage,” the outlet said.
Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim rejected that argument in his ruling, the Pioneer Press reported, adding that he said state law doesn't infringe on the Larsen’s First Amendment rights.
Tunheim added that the Larsens' aim to place a disclaimer on their company’s website that they won't shoot gay wedding videos is “conduct akin to a ‘White Applicants Only’ sign," the outlet said.
“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,” Tunheim’s ruling reads, the Pioneer Press reported. “As conduct carried out through language, this act is not protected by the First Amendment.”
Jeremy Tedseco, an attorney for the Christian legal outfit Alliance Defending Freedom, represented the Larsens and said in reaction to the judge's ruling that "tolerance is a two-way street," the outlet said.
Tedesco added in a statement that "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 Pioneer Press noted.
The Larsens said in a video about their case that they interact and dialogue with people from diverse backgrounds, including those from the LGBT community.
“In this situation, what you have is a law requiring a film production studio to create films that violate their beliefs,” Jonathan Scruggs — another ADF attorney representing the Larsens — told the Pioneer Pres. “That is a direct assault on the First Amendment, and really the rights of all Americans to operate their businesses and create expression in accordance with their beliefs.”
Alliance Defending Freedom also represents Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and has his case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.